The fishing scandal that fascinated the nation last week is entering its courtroom phase.
After Jacob Runyan, 42, of Ashtabula, Ohio, and Chase Cominsky, 35, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, were accused of cheating during a fishing tournament on Lake Erie, a Cleveland grand jury indicted them on fifth-degree felony charges of cheating, attempted grand theft and possessing criminal tools. In addition, the two have been served with the first-degree misdemeanor charge of unlawful ownership of wild animals.
Runyan and Cominsky were accused of stuffing the walleye they brought as their tournament catch with lead sinkers and fillets, discovered when a tournament organizer weighed the fish and saw them come in at far more than an expected weight. A close inspection of the fish, followed by an on-the-spot dissection, proved that the fish were indeed illegally stuffed.
"I take all crime very seriously," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said in a statement, "and I believe what these two individuals attempted to do was not only dishonorable but also criminal."
Earlier this week, Pennsylvania authorities also seized a boat and trailer owned by Cominsky.
The duo had been on a remarkable — and, to many other anglers, highly suspicious — winning streak for several months, winning multiple tournaments on Lake Erie and along the way amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money and awards. When the pair's fish were cut open to reveal the weights and fillets, other anglers erupted in rage that was caught on cellphone video and spread across the internet. Their rage arose from the fact that in tournament fishing, winners claim prizes that could, and should, have ended up with anglers that didn't cut corners in order to finish the tournament.
The two anglers are scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 26.
Contact Jay Busbee at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.