SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)--Country music star Ronnie Dunn testified that his first deer hunting experience was at a northern Indiana farm whose owner is charged in federal court with violating wildlife laws.
Dunn, of the duo Brooks & Dunn, testified Jan. 4 in the second day of Russell G. Bellar's trial on 39 charges, including that he facilitated the illegal killing of wildlife at his 1,200-acre Bellar's Place farm near Peru. Bellar has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Dunn testified he hunted at the fenced farm in late autumn 2002.
He told the jury used a rifle to kill a buck which Bellar had pointed out to him. Dunn also said he had never obtained a state deer hunting license.
"I was told (Bellar's Place) was a private facility and like a ranch," Dunn said.
Dunn said Bellar asked his permission to include his image on a brochure promoting the deer farm some 60 miles south of South Bend.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Schmid presented the mounted head of Dunn's 12-point buck to the jury as evidence of his hunt, along with a smaller nine-point trophy head, shot by Dunn's 17-year-old son.
Dunn said he had not been told by investigators that he had committed illegal acts and had merely told investigators what had happened on his hunting trips.
Dunn's presence in the courtroom attracted a handful of courthouse staffers who left after his testimony, and a few obtained autographs before the singer left the building.
Former property manager Hinds Thomas Jones pleaded guilty Jan. 3 to conspiring to violate a wildlife law and agreed to testify against Bellar. Jones, who faces up to five years in prison, said in his plea agreement that Bellar charged the hunters from $4,000 to $20,000 per buck.