Skip to Main Content

Oyster Poacher Charged with New Violations

Deer Poacher Pleads Guilty

Maryland Natural Resources Police officers secured a guilty verdict in a highly publicized deer poaching case and charged a banned oysterman with new violations in recent days.


Christopher Michael Johnson

A Halethorpe man charged with killing multiple deer in two counties in a single evening pleaded guilty Thursday in Howard County District Court.

In a plea agreement, Christopher Michael Johnson, 20, was sentenced to two days in jail, two years of supervised probation and a two-year suspension of his hunting privileges for trespassing on private property. He was fined $1,500 for hunting at night and ordered to perform 40 hours of community service for hunting from a vehicle.

He still faces charges in Baltimore County.

Johnson and John Dimingo Gallano IV, 20, of Pasadena were arrested in September charged with 73 counts of illegal hunting after evidence indicated they killed eight deer in a single evening in Baltimore and Howard counties.

The carcasses of a nine-point buck and three four-point bucks were dumped in Pasadena neighborhoods. Two deer – a six-point buck and a doe – were taken to an Anne Arundel County wild game processor. Two deer were not recovered by the shooters.

None of the deer were logged in or recorded, as required by state law. Neither man had written permission to be hunting on any of the properties where the deer were shot.

Gallano is due in Howard County District Court Dec. 21 and in Baltimore County District Court Jan. 9.


James Phillip Nelson

A St. Mary’s County man, whose commercial license was revoked for oyster harvesting violations in 2015, and another waterman were charged Wednesday after they were seen taking oysters from a closed area.

James Phillip Nelson, 40, and Melanie Ann Wheeler, 38, both of California, were hand-scraping for oysters in an area of the Jones Shore bar that is designated for hand tongs only. Officers determined that the two were well inside the marked boundary.

They were issued Potomac River Fisheries Commission citations and are required to appear in St. Mary’s County District Court Feb. 2.

In November 2015, Nelson had his commercial license permanently revoked by a St. Mary’s County District Court judge after he was convicted of harvesting oysters from a polluted area and keeping oysters that were between 28 and 48 percent undersized, a second offense on both counts.

He was fined $3,750, with $2,000 of it suspended, and was ordered to pay court costs. He also was sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation on each of the three charges.

Nelson has a history of poaching convictions dating back to the mid-1990s involving illegal crabbing, oyster harvesting and hunting.

A Lusby waterman was cited for having two bushels containing undersized oysters aboard his boat when he was checked Wednesday by officers near Solomons Island in Calvert County.

Milburn Alexander Buckler III, 59, received two citations, each of which carries a pre-payable fine of $155. If he chooses to plead not guilty, Buckler has been given a court appearance date of Feb. 13.