Rare-bird case
charges dropped

The dismissal clears the way for a dealer
to get the antiques back

By Debra Barayuga

Hawaiiana dealer Don Medcalf is breathing a sigh of relief after eight criminal citations against him for possessing stuffed endangered birds were dropped.

District Judge Russel Nagata dismissed eight violations against him yesterday, clearing the way for the return of 52 birds seized by agents of the Department of Land & Natural Resources from his downtown antiques shop last month. The captured birds were the subject of Star-Bulletin reporter Rob Perez's "Raising Cane" column Sunday.

"We took a look at the facts surrounding the case and decided to dismiss the charges because we felt they wouldn't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt," said Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Teruya, who represented the state at yesterday's arraignment.

Medcalf was charged with eight misdemeanor counts of possession of indigenous wildlife -- one for each of the species of birds in his possession at Hawaiian Islands Stamp & Coin.

Medcalf, who deals in rare Hawaiian items, said he is all for protecting indigenous species, but the birds have been dead and stuffed since before the turn of the century. "If it's way, way old, I think you should be able to own it."

He knows of many prominent families who own hatbands and capes made with feathers, and even he has owned feather items in the past. "I guess (the court's ruling) means we can own them."

Earle Partington, attorney for Medcalf, said the dismissal of the charges "showed how stupid and shortsighted the state's policy was in trying to seize century-old birds like these."

The birds were killed and stuffed in the late 1800s, before the state passed laws protecting endangered wildlife.

Had the charges been upheld, the policy would have had a detrimental effect on Hawaiiana collections, whether they be stuffed birds or feathered capes and artifacts, Partington said.

"People who own these would put them into hiding, and others wouldn't be able to enjoy them for fear the state would seize them," he said.

Department of Land and Natural Resources

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