Eastern Shore commercial fisherman takes case to FBI

In an effort to stop what he says is illegal harassment of himself and other commercial fishermen on the Eastern Shore, Ed Bender has contacted the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI in Norfolk.

In his complaint he is alleging corruption, theft, and extortion within the offices of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).  

NOTE:  Any Eastern Shore or Virginia commercial fisherman who has documented evidence of overzealous enforcement or wrong doing by representatives of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission personnel, please contact Deepthroat@Virginianewssource.com .  All contacts will be kept in strict confidence and not revealed to anyone without your permission.

The state agency that regulates commercial fisheries in Virginia, according to Bender, has violated the federal Hobbs Act by confiscating and interfering with commerce (seafood) in interstate commerce in order to use state regulations and statues to harass him and others.  It is against federal law for anyone (including the state) to interfere with interstate commerce.

Bender said he has documented evidence to back up his claims to the FBI.

He claims the VMRC is rife with corruption because of the way it deals with commercial fishermen.

A spokesman said, the agency has undergone a restructuring in recent years and it has tried to bring professionalism to its "marine patrol" staff.  They have undergone professional training and are under closer supervision than in the 'old days' when their description as waterfront 'gunslingers' was fairly accurate in some cases.  Before the restructuring, the philosophy was 'the end justifies the means,' in bringing cases. The VMRC denies that's the attitude now.

Regardless, Bender says nothing has really changed - the VMRC patrol officers apply the regulations and laws as arbitrarily and capriciously as ever.  "They don't like me, particularly," he said because he probably knows more about marine law than many lawyers, "so I am the focus of their enforcement activities."  He's acknowledges he's been a burr under their saddles.

Bender was forced to serve some jail time in past years when one of his vessels sank and he wouldn't remove it when ordered to do so by the VMRC.  But he spent his time and has remained just as independent and adamant in opposing what he calls the VMRC's unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious enforcement actions.

His goal, Bender said, is to make the state agency responsible for its actions in violating federal law by trying to make cases against him and others under state regulations and laws.  He hopes to spark a investigation at the federal level to accomplish this, he said.

Editor's note:  Ed Bender is a living legend on Virginia's Eastern Shore.  He is self-educated in marine law at the state and federal level, buying his own set of state and U.S. codes to defend himself over the years.  He has been at odds off and on over what he says are the VMRC's overzealous enforcement practices for more than 30-years.  He has several cases pending before various agencies and courts at the present time.  He is charged with the illegal practice of law by the State Bar.  The charge was brought for loudly stating his opinions to others about the questionable legality of the VMRC's actions and advising them to tell the VMRC where to stick it - opinions he says is his First Amendment right to free speech.

Is he right?  Only time and the outcome of the various cases will tell.  One thing is sure:  If his interpretation of the Hobbs Act can result in a federal investigation and/or charges against the VMRC personnel - he will have hit the big one out of the ball park.  The problem will be whether the feds will consider it politically expedient to pursue Bender's case, even if he is right.  The other thing for sure is:  Bender never gives up in his quest for individual rights and equal protection under the Constitution.

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