LAS VEGAS, NV — Mike
Hart, who was disqualified from the 2010 WON BASS U.S. Open at Lake Mead for
weighing in fish with lead weights in their stomachs will not be tried for a
felony. In fact, he pled guilty last Friday to a pair of lesser charges, petty larceny and
disorderly conduct and was fined $1,000. Both are misdemeanors.
MIKE HART, avoided
jail, pled to two misdemeanors, and paid a $1,000 fine.
Judge Ann Zimmerman, acting on he recommendations of deputy district attorney Tyler Smith, accepted the plea agreement and ordered Hart to pay the fine. Said Tyler Smith, deputy district attorney, “The case is now closed.”
WON BASS Tournament Director Billy Egan, who weighed in Hart’s fish and later spoke to him after his disqualification, was ordered to testify in the case, and was ordered to appear Dec. 16. He did not have to appear when Hart and his attorney agreed to the plea bargain.
Said Egan after the announcement of the punishment, “Mike made a horrible decision, one that will affect him the rest of life. We look at it as a lenient decision based on what he could have been faced with. I’m glad it’s all behind us.” Egan said Hart has been banned from all WON events “and likely from all other pro tournaments and team events.”
The state district attorney’s office originally responded to the criminal complaint by the Nevada Department of Fish and Wildlife Department with a class B felony (statute 205.380) “attempting to obtain money or property under false pretenses.” The Category B felony would have carried a sentence of up to 10 years in state prison and $10,000 in fines.
Hart’s disqualification was national news at the U.S. Open. After WON BASS officials found a fish with weights and hooks in it on the second day of the three-day tournament, a plan was put into effect to find the suspected cheater by WON BASS staff and the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
The weight, secured in the fish’s stomach by small treble hooks, was found in one of the few dead fish that had been inspected in what is essentially a catch-and-release event. Bass fishermen, however, can weigh in dead fish, but they are penalized 2 tenths of a pound.
Thus, a short list of anglers who brought in dead fish was created, and their fish were given extra attention when presented on the final weigh-in. More than one fish presented by Mike Hart on day three had similar weights with hooks after inspection by WON BASS and Nevada officials.
Hart was not arrested at the scene, and Nevada enforcement officials at the time said they had no immediate plans to prosecute. Hart’s fish, with the weights, would have likely put him in the top 10 and would have resulted in a minimum of a $5,000 payday, said WON BASS director Egan.