Two men accused of stuffing five walleye with lead weights and fish filets during a lucrative fishing tournament on Lake Erie pleaded not guilty to cheating and other charges on Wednesday.
Jacob Runyan, 42, of Broadview Heights, Ohio, and Chase Cominsky, 35, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, made no comments during their brief court appearances in Cleveland. Their attorneys declined to comment about the case after the hearing.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James Gutierrez also declined to comment, referring questions to a spokesperson.
The cheating allegations surfaced Sept. 30 when Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament director Jason Fischer became suspicious because Runyan and Cominsky’s fish were significantly heavier than walleye of that length typically are. An angry crowd at Gordon Park in Cleveland watched Fischer cut the walleye open and announce there were weights and fish fillets stuffed inside them.
An officer from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources confiscated the fish as evidence.
Runyan and Cominsky were indicted earlier this month on felony charges of cheating, attempted grand theft, possessing criminal tools and misdemeanor charges of unlawfully owning wild animals.
Both were released Wednesday on personal bonds of $2,500.
The first place prize in the tournament totaled around $28,000.