Thursday, April 8, 1999
By Bill Cole
Steve Hindi, the animal rights activist who flew an ultralight craft over the Woodstock Hunt Club, was sentenced to conditional discharge Wednesday for hunter interference.
Although he drew a mild punishment, the Geneva man was anything but contrite.
Not only does he plan an appeal, Hindi also filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Chicago challenging the state's jurisdiction over air space use.
"It is plaintiff's contention … that the governance of conduct in the air is in the exclusive jurisdiction of federal law, which … preempts the Hunter Interference Statute," the suit claims.
Hindi's attorney, Rick Halprin, called his client's prosecution a test case for the approximately year-old Hunter Interference Statute, and he asked Judge Gordon E. Graham to sentence Hindi knowing the case will be reviewed by higher courts.
Found guilty by a jury in January of three counts of hunter interference for flying the ultralight "paraglider" over the now-defunct club, Hindi received 18 month's conditional discharge.
As conditions of that sentence, which will leave the conviction on his record, he will have to pay a $150 fine and court costs on each of the three counts, and perform 150 hours of public service.
Halprin argued that Hindi, 44, was protesting out of his love for animals and for the public good.
"I'm not determining the rights of animals, or peoples' support of the rights of animals," Graham said. He said he was sitting in judgment of the criminal charges that were brought.
He said Hindi, in his view, would neither benefit, nor be deterred, by being in jail.
Assistant State's Attorney Robert K. Beaderstadt had asked for two years' probation, a $1,500 fine and six months in jail for the Sept. 8, 1996, violation.
Three hunt club employees testified Hindi caused geese flying overhead to split into two groups when the powered glider passed by.
While he was in the air, other protesters nearby used megaphones and sirens in what prosecutors said was an attempt to disrupt hunting at the club.
It isn't Hindi's first brush with the law. In the past, he and fellow members of his organization, Showing Animals Respect and kindness, have protested at the Wauconda and Kane County Fair rodeos.
He even once turned an electric cattle prod on himself to demonstrate that rodeos are cruel to cattle.
According to Beaderstadt, Hindi was convicted in Pennsylvania of criminal mischief, and also has received court supervision in Lake County for disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property.
Hindi said the cases related to his defense of animal rights.
He disputed some events from his most recent trial, though. Although he admits flying over the Woodstock Hunt Club, he maintains he was at least a quarter mile from the flock of geese.
"We try to go up to the (boundaries) of the law, and I think that's what we did," he said. "We flew over some hunters. So what?
Where the boundaries of the state law lie governing air space may be determined in federal court.
Graham and McHenry County State's Attorney Gary Pack are named as defendants in Hindi's suit.
According to the suit, the prosecution of Hindi using Illinois' Hunter Interference Statute violated the U.S. Constitution.
The Federal Aviation Agency has "exclusive" power to regulate the use of airspace, it maintains.