Man accused of intentionally crashing into deer in Ely pleads not guilty
The case has inspired state lawmakers to seek double restitution for malicious killing of wildlife.
VIRGINIA — The man accused of crashing his truck into three deer in Ely in March pleaded not guilty Friday, May 12, to three misdemeanor charges of chasing or injuring wildlife with a vehicle.
Casey Meadows, 20, and his attorney appeared in front of Judge Mark Starr in a Zoom hearing. A pretrial hearing was set for July 5.
Meadows is accused of intentionally ramming his pickup truck into three deer on an Ely road, paralyzing all three, which had to be euthanized.
The News Tribune first reported the case March 27 when Meadows faced a single misdemeanor charge of chasing or injuring wildlife by use of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor with a $300 penalty, and was also issued state restitution orders of $500 for each deer, for a total penalty of $1,800. The single misdemeanor citation would have allowed Meadows to plead guilty and pay his fines without appearing in court.
But due to public outcry that the charges and penalties weren't strong enough to fit the crime, Minnesota Conservation Officer Anthony Bermel rescinded the original charge filed in State District Court in St. Louis County and recharged Meadows with three separate counts of the same crime. By stacking the crimes, Meadows now faces a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for each count. If found guilty, he must still pay the $1,500 restitution for the value of the deer — for a potential cost of $4,500.
The incident occurred March 21 “in broad daylight right on Highway 21 by the golf course,” Bermel said. The injured deer were euthanized by an Ely police officer. Within 24 hours, Bermel and others began receiving tips on who the driver may have been. Bermel, joined by a St. Louis County Sheriff's deputy and an Ely police officer, interviewed Meadows at his residence in Ely, and the criminal complaint says Meadows admitted he hit the deer on purpose.
“There was never any good explanation of why. It doesn't make much sense to me,” Bermel told the News Tribune in March. “It's a 30 mph zone. ... He had to speed up to hit them all, single file.”
Bermel said Meadows had a heavy-duty bumper guard on his truck, which sustained no damage in the incident.
Meadows is now listing his home address as Madison, South Dakota. He had moved to Ely to attend Vermilion Community College, which specializes in wildlife and other outdoors majors. Court records show Meadows paid citations for having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle in 2021 and for not having a current registration sticker on his snowmobile earlier this year.
Bermel said the deer incident caused a stir on social media, with some people suggesting officers should issue more severe charges, such as a felony. But Bermel said Minnesota statutes are limited in this case, noting there is no provision for this crime for the state to take away Meadows' hunting or fishing privileges.
Doubled restitution for future cases?
The Ely case made headlines statewide and has inspired Minnesota lawmakers to propose a change in state statutes that would double the restitution charge for wildlife cases if the crime was committed in a malicious way. The provision currently is included in the omnibus natural resources bill now being discussed in a conference committee at the Capitol. If the provision passes, it would not apply to Meadows’ case.