The case of the golfing doctor, the clubbed goose and the classy country club will never play to a courtroom audience. It was all but settled yesterday with a plea bargain.
Lawyers for the Washington doctor who allegedly clubbed a goose to death with his putter on the velvety greens of Congressional Country Club have agreed to a bargain in which the doctor will serve no jail time.
All that is left when the previously scheduled trial convenes tomorrow in Baltimore is for a federal judge to approve the agreement.
And the most that even a key prosecution witness would say yesterday about the case or the doctor is: "That man has suffered enough."
Federal prosecutors in May charged Dr. Sherman Thomas with "unlawfully killing a migratory bird, to wit, "a Canada goose" out of season on the 17th green at the Potomac, Md., club.
The doctor, investigators said, had contended it was a mercy killing. The bird, he said, was mortally wounded by his approach shot and he ended its suffering with his putter.
Others told a different tale. Some golfers who witnessed the incident told investigators that Thomas, in a fit of rage, killed the bird after it interfered with his game.
Shortly after what has come to be known around the club as the "goose incident," federal authorities began to get anonymous complaints. The Canada goose is protected by federal migratory bird laws.
Had the trial been held, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Schmoke would have flown in two out-of-town eyewitnesses, who were golfing at Congressional the day the goose was allegedly slain. He would also have called an expert witness to prove the bird, whose body has never been found, was, indeed, a Canada goose.
The day the goose died, a wildlife expert found its mate and a gosling, or baby goose, on the country club grounds.
Attorney Charles Shaffer, would have represented Thomas who was facing a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine for each of two goose-related charges.
But Thomas still may have to face the wrath of some of his country club colleagues.
The club's board of governors has been postponing a decision on whether to reprimand Thomas until the federal case was settled. tThomas, in his first public comment on the incident, sounded pleased yesterday that the affair -- at least one chapter of it -- was about to come to an end.
"My God," he said, "I would have been glad if it had been over the day after it happened."