ALLEGANY — Charges have been dismissed against an Allegany man who had nearly 300 reptiles including king cobras and gila monsters seized from his home two years ago.
William Engelder, 72, of Union Street, was named in a 48-county indictment on Feb. 26, including charges of first- and second degree reckless endangerment for having poisonous king cobras and gila monsters at his home.
However, the charges were dismissed Thursday by Cattaraugus County Court Judge Ronald Ploetz on motion of Engelder’s attorney Peter M. Kooshoian of Rosenthal Kooshoian & Lennon, LLP, Buffalo.
Kooshoian said under Criminal Procedure Law, the district attorney has six months to bring indictment after a defendant is arraigned. The DA had 184 days to be ready for trial under the six-month rule, but did indicate they were ready for trial after 228 days, he pointed out.
Ploetz agreed with Engelder’s attorney and last Thursday dismissed the indictment.
“What happened is they didn’t timely file the indictment,” Kooshoian told the Olean Times Herald on Monday. “It’s over.”
In the August 2018 raid by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, state officials removed hundreds of reptiles including three king cobras, six gila monsters, two endangered box turtles, 17 bog turtles, 28 Blanding’s turtles, 53 wood turtles, two painted turtles, six snapping turtles and 184 spotted turtles. The DEC at the time noted it was the largest seizure of reptiles in the state.
Engelder had been indicted on 37 counts of unlawful possession of wildlife, six counts of second-degree reckless endangerment, three counts of first-degree reckless endangerment and possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
The first-degree reckless endangerment charges, a felony, stemmed from possession of the king cobras in unsafe housing and the risk of personal injury they posed. The second-degree reckless endangerment charges, a misdemeanor, stemmed from the grave risk injury from possessing the gila monsters.
Engelder was arraigned Aug. 9, 2019, more than a year after the original complaint and search warrant. On Sept. 3, 2019, the matter was waived from Allegany Village Court to Cattaraugus County Court for presentation to the grand jury. The Allegany man was not indicted until Feb. 26, and arraigned on the multi-count indictment on March 16.
After the District Attorney’s Office filed a certificate of compliance on June 18, Engelder’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. Kooshoian and District Attorney Lori Rieman argued the dismissal motion before Ploetz on July 21.
Rieman and the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Albany press office did not respond to requests for comment by press time.