By PATRICK BUCHNOWSKI
CRESSON – A Richland Township restaurateur will stand trial accused of buying gallbladders of black bears.
David Thomas Horten, 46, of the 1100 block of Solomon Run Road, was ordered to stand trial following a preliminary hearing Thursday before District Judge Galen Decort of Cresson.
The state game commission charged Horten in November with two misdemeanor counts of illegally buying and selling game.
Game commission Officer Gary Sparks, who is now retired, said he sold two gallbladders to Horten on Dec. 8, 2011.
Sparks testified that he was working undercover when he sold Horten the bear parts in the parking lot of NyKo’s Restaurant on Scalp Avenue.
Sparks, who sported a lengthy gray beard, said he sold Horten two different-sized gallbladders for $160.
“He gave me a $100 bill,” Sparks said. “He got three $20s out of his wallet for the smaller one. That was the end of the transaction.”
Horten said his mother would dry the gallbladders and take them to New York City, where they would be sold, Sparks said.
Game commission Officer Eric Horsh said he was not at the restaurant to witness the transaction but met Horten earlier. He said Horten had expressed interest in buying bear parts.
Bear gallbladders are consider edible and are used for medicinal purposes in Asia, he said.
They can be ground into powder and sprinkled on food, Horsh said.
Pennsylvania bans buying or selling edible parts of game (deer, bear, etc.)
Defense Attorney Caram Abood asked Decort to throw out the charges, saying the game commission presented no bear parts, photographs of the gallbladders or buy money as evidence.
“The only thing here today is (Sparks’) word that this occurred,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Assistant District Attorney Beth Bolton Penna said two game officials testified to the nature of the deal and the type of payment made. Additional evidence will be presented at trial, she said.
Game laws guard against poachers, Bolton Penna said after the hearing.
“We not only need to protect the wildlife but those who are out there for sport obeying the rules,” she said.
Bolton Penna also said Horten had earlier rejected an offer to plead guilty to a summary charge.
Horten was released on his own recognizance.
Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @PatBuchnowskiTD.