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Anti-hunt activist pleads not guilty
By BRENDAN BERLS
(newton)Herald Staff Writer
VERNON — A Highland Lakes man appeared briefly in municipal court Tuesday afternoon on charges that he threatened a park ranger and two hunters during last week's controversial black bear hunt.
Albert Kazemian, 49, appeared in court without an attorney, and his appearance lasted just a few minutes as Judge C. William Bowkley Jr. read the complaints against him and told him he must appear in Superior Court in Newton on Dec. 27.
Kazemian did not speak during the hearing except to say, "I'm pleading not guilty."
Kazemian is one of four anti-hunt activists arrested last Wednesday after a confrontation in Wawayanda State Park with three hunters — one of whom turned out to be a park ranger in disguise.
All four activists face charges of hunter harassment, disorderly conduct, obstructing the administration of law and resisting arrest, all for allegedly yelling at the hunters and blocking their path into the woods to prevent them from hunting.
Kazemian faces an additional, much more serious charge of making terroristic threats — punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and three to five years in prison — for allegedly telling the hunters he would "get my Arab friends to hunt you down; see how you like it."
Fellow activists, who had earlier vowed to stay within the confines of the law while opposing the hunt, have decried the arrests as a "sting operation" designed to ensnare the protesters. State officials say the park ranger was simply responding to hunters' complaints by going into the woods in disguise.
Neither Kazemian nor his companions, including at least one of his co-defendants, who accompanied him to court in a show of moral support, would comment after his appearance. It was unclear whether the group had yet retained attorneys.
An additional six hunters were arrested Saturday at a protest on the final day of the hunt. All six are charged with obstructing the administration of law. Two hunters were also arrested over the course of the six-day hunt; they face poaching charges.
A total of 297 bears were killed in the hunt — a decline from the 328 killed in 2003's black bear hunt, which was New Jersey's first since 1970.