A jury found a man who has a former felony conviction not guilty of possessing a firearm in Lycoming County Court Friday.
Brad L. Hornberger, 35, who listed an address of 2813 W. Fourth St., according to court records, was arrested at gunpoint and put in handcuffs by state Game Commission officers on May 12, 2011 while hunting turkeys with his then-15-year-old son near Crescent Hill Road in Hepburn Township.
Hornberger served prison time on robbery charges that he pleaded guilty to in 2003.
He testified in court that he took a shotgun from an acquaintance's barn near where he was hunting to protect himself, his son and nearby children from a wounded coyote that he struck with a crossbow.
Felons are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, by law.
"He made that choice because he felt he was justified to do so," said Hornberger's defense attorney, Kyle W. Rude. "It was a very difficult decision for Mr. Hornberger."
If convicted of the crime, Hornberger could have faced a mandatory minimum of five years in state prison.
Hornberger told jurors he felt he needed to track the wounded animal, fearing it could turn vicious and attack people. He said the bolt fired from his crossbow didn't fatally wound the animal, adding he thought the coyote should be put down humanely.
Anthony L. Ciuca, assistant district attorney, asked Hornberger why he didn't try to find the coyote and shoot it again with his crossbow.
"I felt much more comfortable tracking a coyote with a shotgun than a crossbow," he responded.
Hornberger told Ciuca he would have a better chance of a direct hit with a shotgun. State Game Commission Officers took him into custody before he could do so, however.
Ciuca also asked why Hornberger didn't tell officers at the time of his arrest about the coyote and why he had the shotgun.
"I was extremely scared. I knew I was probably in trouble and didn't want to make it any worse than it was," he said.
Ciuca said Hornberger could have made a different decision other than looking for the wounded animal with a gun.
"You had the chance to call the Game Commission or anybody to assist," Ciuca said.
"I never really thought about that. I just wanted to get the animal," Hornberger answered.
At one point during his testimony, Hornberger choked up recalling his past criminal history.
"It's been 10 years since I've done anything wrong. I'm a good man. What's the point of putting me in prison for five or 10 years?" he said, before Judge Richard A. Gray stopped him.
Hornberger's son, who is now 16, also took the stand. He, too, shed tears as he told about his experience that day when he saw his father being arrested by officers.
"They had him in handcuffs. He was on his knees," he said.
The boy also said he didn't tell officers about the coyote "because I was never in that type of situation."
The jury deliberated for a little more than an hour before they reached a verdict. Some of Hornberger's family clenched their hands in front of their heads before the forewoman delivered the verdict.
Hornberger was found guilty of a summary game commission regulation violation and was ordered to pay a $50 fine.