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An Indiana special prosecutor said Thursday he has submitted a motion to dismiss the misdemeanor illegal possession charges against a couple who nursed an injured white-tailed deer back to health and kept it on their farm for two years, saying he did so at the request of the state agency that first requested the charges.
Decatur County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Douglas Brown said in an interview with The Associated Press that he had faxed to the court a request to dismiss the charges against Connersville police officer Jeff Counceller and his wife, Jennifer, and mailed a copy to the couple. The move came six days after the Department of Natural Resources asked that the charges be dropped.
"The DNR's request played a significant role," he said.
Brown said he couldn't comment further, saying the reasoning for the decision would be included in a special prosecutor's report he hopes to have completed by Friday.
The Councellers said they were pleased with the decision.
"I don't think any state law should ever punish an act of kindness and compassion, especially when it saves an animal," Jennifer Counceller said.
Jeff Counceller called the decision "the best outcome to this situation."
The DNR sought the charges after the deer the Councellers rescued went missing last summer on the day the DNR planned to euthanize it. Jeff Counceller had earlier said he found the deer in 2010 curled up on a front porch with maggot-infested puncture wounds, so he took it back to his family's 17-acre farm in Connersville to try to save it. The couple named the fawn Dani and kept it in a fenced enclosure.
The Councellers said they had intended to release the deer once it was strong enough to survive on its own. They tried to find it a home at animal rescue operations, petting zoos and deer farms, but no one would take it. They applied for a rescue permit but were turned down.
DNR filed a report in Fayette County, which sought a special prosecutor because Counceller deals with prosecutors in Fayette County as part of his job.
The DNR announced last week it would ask prosecutors to dismiss the charge, which carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine, after Gov. Mike Pence asked the agency to review the case.
Thousands of people outraged by the case have signed an online petition calling for the charges to be dropped.