Michael J. Moore, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announces that Norman Clinton Hale, age 42, a resident of McDonough, Georgia, was sentenced on March 22, 2012 before the Honorable Marc T. Treadwell, United States District Judge in Macon, Georgia, after entering a plea of guilty to counts one, three, and five of the indictment.
Count one charged Hale with killing Christopher Upton, a U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, with a Remington 700 .223 caliber bolt action rifle by discharging the firearm while illegally hunting on a federal reserve, the Ocmulgee Bluff Equestrian Trailhead in the Oconee National Forest, in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Sections 1114 in connection with Title 18 United States Code, Section 1112(a) and (b) and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2.
Count three charged Hale with discharging a firearm In a developed recreation site, in violation of 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 261.10(d)(1), Section 261.2, and Section 261.1b.
Count five charged Hale with tampering with a witness by misleading conduct, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(b)(3).
Following a sentencing hearing, the court sentenced Mr. Hale to 60 months’ imprisonment on count one, 60 months’ imprisonment on count five, and six months’ imprisonment on count three, all concurrent with each other, followed by three years’ supervised release, and a $225 mandatory assessment fee.
On March 5, 2010, while hunting illegally, Hale discharged his rifle, striking Officer Upton in the face. At the sentencing hearing, the government offered expert evidence that had Mr. Hale taken appropriate action, such as calling for emergency services and applying pressure to Officer Upton’s wound, Officer Upton could have survived. Instead, Mr. Hale waited one hour and 32 minutes before calling 911 and offered no aid to Officer Upton. Mr. Hale asked the other persons present to just leave and not report the incident. When they refused to do so, Mr. Hale then suggested they get four wheelers and drive them to where Officer Upton was and tell the police that they found Officer Upton’s body in this condition.
Based on the lack of care and assistance to Officer Upton, the government argued that the court should exercise its discretion and sentence Mr. Hale to a more severe term of imprisonment than that suggested by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The court agreed and sentenced Mr. Hale to a term of imprisonment that was double the maximum amount of jail time calculated under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
United States Attorney Michael Moore said, “This case involves an unimaginable tragedy. Had Mr. Hale shown even the slightest bit of care and concern for Officer Chris Upton, he would be alive today, and Mr. Hale would not be heading to federal prison.”
The investigation was conducted by the United States Forest Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael T. Solis.