Former game warden charged with keeping seized items wants theft charges dropped

Madison.com, host.madison.com
BYLINE: Tim Damos

Reedsburg, WI


Horzewski

A former game warden is contesting charges that he used his position to seize items he then kept for himself.

The attorney for 45-year-old David G. Horzewski of Reedsburg has filed motions to dismiss the case against her client, arguing the time frame in which the state may prosecute the alleged offenses has expired.

“If the seizure of the firearms was unlawful, the six-year statute of limitations clearly applies,” attorney Rachel Krueger of Madison wrote in a legal brief.

Prosecutors have charged Horzewski — who began working for the state Department of Natural Resources in December 1994 — with six felony counts of theft and two felony counts of misconduct in office, alleging the offenses took place between 2003 and 2013.

The criminal complaint details multiple instances in which Horzewski allegedly confiscated items — such as guns, scopes, deer antlers, and other gear — from people he cited, but never submitted the items into evidence.

There is an exception for the statute of limitations that allows prosecution of a felony theft that occurred more than six years ago in which the owner of a stolen item did not immediately notice that it was missing. In that exception, prosecution of the theft must occur within a year of when the owner became aware of the theft.

But Krueger said that exception could not apply to her client’s case.

“If the owners of the firearms are the individuals from whom the firearms were seized by the defendant, these individuals discovered the loss of the firearm at the time of or shortly after the seizure,” Krueger wrote in a legal brief.

And if the state claims the DNR was the owner of the firearms, Krueger wrote, then the six year time frame already has expired.

“The DNR cannot legitimately claim to have discovered the alleged loss of the firearms at issue until after the defendant’s termination when all of the information regarding the seized firearms was at its fingertips,” the motion to dismiss states.

Krueger wrote that Horzewski submitted reports regarding the seizure of items, and that other DNR employees were with him during several instances. Therefore, the agency should have been aware of the thefts more than six years ago.

In a separate motion, Krueger claimed that portions of the criminal complaint are not relevant to the case or are prejudicial, including references to alleged DNR employee policy violations that don’t have any bearing on the case and references to his children.

The motion to dismiss also argues that two of the charges are duplicates of each other. And in one passage, Krueger implies that the DNR’s response to the revelation of missing evidence was excessive.

“Rather than ask the defendant to return these items, the DNR contacted the Capitol Police,” Krueger wrote in the motion to dismiss.

Horzewski — who worked as a warden in the Reedsburg area — was fired in July 2013 for what DNR officials have called “integrity issues.” His supervisors said he violated multiple department policies over the years and had a history of using state resources for personal reasons.

A hearing regarding the motion to dismiss charges has been scheduled for Sept. 11. Horzewski is currently free on a $5,000 signature bond.

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