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Stranger pays veteran's duck fine without his OK

West Lafayette man still wants day in court

Jul. 22, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Iraq War veteran Darin Welker, 36, holds one of his ducks at his home in West Lafayette, Ohio.
Iraq War veteran Darin Welker, 36, holds one of his ducks at his home in West Lafayette, Ohio. (Trevor Jones/Coshocton Tribune)
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Darin Welker (Coshocton Tribune)

WEST LAFAYETTE, OHIO — What appears to be a citizen trying to do a good deed might deny a disabled veteran the day in court he wants.

Darin Welker was cited with a minor misdemeanor June 23 for being in violation of a West Lafayette law regarding keeping farm animals in village limits. He has 14 ducks he uses for physical and emotional therapy after serving in 2005 in Iraq.

He was scheduled to appear Wednesday in Coshocton Municipal Court to fight the charge.

However, court clerk Karen Shaw said the $140 fine and court costs were paid Monday online by a man in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Paying of the fine, as with a traffic citation, is viewed as an admission of guilt and waives a court appearance.

Shaw said there’s nothing to prevent someone unconnected with a case from paying a fine online, as all one needs is the case number and person’s name, which can be obtained through open records on the court website.

The Tribune was unable Monday to find contact information for the man who paid the fine.

Shaw said Judge Tim France would need to review the matter Tuesday and doesn’t remember such an incident occurring before.

Welker said he would consult with his lawyer, Robert Weir, as he still wants to appear in court and disagrees with the charge. Welker didn’t talk to anyone who said they had paid the fine.

Since The Tribune ran an article Saturday on the situation, Welker said, he has been contacted by many individuals offering support and to pay the fine and court costs, some as far away as Hawaii.

Shaw said the court also received several calls Monday about the case and possibly paying the charges as well. Welker said he had not planned on pleading guilty or paying the fine at Wednesday’s court hearing.

The story originated with The Tribune and was picked up by The Associated Press and used by media outlets across the country.

Welker jokingly said the national attention he has received in the past few days has made him “happy and miserable.”

“I’m tired of answering the phone,” he said with a chuckle. “But I’m glad there is finally some attention among veterans against this small-town bureaucracy.”

He hasn’t kept track of how many phone calls he’s received, but he said many have been from people across the country and national media outlets. He called into radio shows Monday in Chicago and Tampa, Florida.

Welker said he is set to do a live interview at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Columbus with Fox News. He said NBC News also was set to be at his home Wednesday morning, and several news outlets had said they were going to attend Wednesday’s court hearing.

Whether the hearing will still take place has yet to be decided.

“It’s a great gesture, but it doesn’t change anything,” Welker said of the charges being paid. “The biggest thing is standing up against the judicial system for change.”

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