Two York County men acquitted of disarming PA game warden
Two York County men accused last year of attacking a Pennsylvania game warden in the woods of Schuylkill County and stealing his handgun have been acquitted of the most serious charges against them but convicted of lesser offenses.
A Schuylkill County jury reached its verdict Wednesday, Oct. 30, in the consolidated trial of Wade Michael Winemiller and Thomas Earl Kelly Jr.
The men were acquitted of two counts each of aggravated assault and one count each of disarming a law enforcement officer, according to court records. All those charges are felonies.
Winemiller, 58, of Lower Windsor Township, was found guilty of the misdemeanors of simple assault and resisting arrest, as well as the summary offenses of harassment and disorderly conduct, according to court records.
Kelly, 58, of Hopewell Township, was acquitted of simple assault but convicted of resisting arrest and the summaries offenses of harassment and disorderly conduct, court records state.
Both men remain free on bail and are scheduled to be sentenced by Schuylkill County Common Pleas Judge William E. Baldwin on Dec. 16, according to court records.
The background: The men were riding ATVs when they came across Pennsylvania Game Commission Deputy Warden David Fidler, according to court documents.
Fidler was dispatched to a wooded area off Peach Mountain Road in Norwegian Township about 10 a.m. Dec. 1, 2018, for a deer that was shot, possibly by someone on an ATV, officials said.
While walking the trail in the woods, he heard ATVs approaching and stepped off the trail until Winemiller and Kelly drove up, then Fidler stepped back onto the trail and stopped them, state police said.
Instead of stopping, the men took off on the orange and black ATVs, leaving the trail, troopers said. But one rolled his ATV going up a mountain, and the other stalled his out, police said.
Fidler tried to detain Winemiller and Kelly, but the men would not cooperate, court documents state.
Warden pulled gun: The game warden initially pulled out his duty handgun after Kelly made a fist and cocked back his arm, but Fidler then put away his gun and started examining one of the ATVs, according to court documents.
Fidler sprayed Kelly in the face with pepper spray after Kelly allegedly punched or tried to punch him, according to state police.
Winemiller and Kelly then started chasing Fidler, who again unholstered his gun, documents state.
Kelly grabbed the game warden's arm and pushed it downward, at which point he and the game warden began struggling as the warden fell to his knees, according to charging documents.
Both Kelly and Winemiller grabbed Fidler's service weapon as Fidler was on the ground, hunched over in an attempt to keep the firearm near his body, police alleged.
"Fidler then turned his firearm's muzzle to his left side, where (Kelly) was ... and discharged one round," but it went into the ground, court documents state.
Punched in head: Winemiller punched Fidler in the head, police said, then grabbed the gun out of the game warden's hands and started to back up, documents state.
"It's over, throw the gun in the woods," Fidler told him, according to police, and Winemiller told the game warden he could "pick up the gun at the next intersection by the creek," documents state.
Kelly was yelling for his ATV key, which Fidler had, police said. Fidler pulled the key out of his pocket and gave it to Kelly, after which both Winemiller and Kelly fled the area, documents state.
Fidler was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and treated for injuries he suffered, police said.
ATVs found: "Multiple investigatory leads" led troopers to Winemiller and Kelly, according to charging documents, which state the men were known to operate orange and black ATVs and were known "to be confrontational with other ATV riders," documents state.
State police went to Winemiller's home, prompting him to say, "I knew you guys were coming," documents allege.
Police also found the ATVs Winemiller and Kelly allegedly used that day in Winemiller's garage, and they found one had a broken hand guard, which was left at the scene of the attack on Fidler, documents state.
Winemiller told troopers, "I should have changed out that hand guard," documents state.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.