Marshall B. Coyne, owner of the Madison Hotel, has been fined $5,000 by a federal court in Baltimore, after being accused of buying Canada geese to be served as pate in his hotel's posh Montpelier Restaurant.
Coyne pleaded guilty on Wednesday to 10 misdemeanor counts of violating the Migratory Bird and Treaty Act, and surrendered 67 geese, but he vehemently denied that he served the geese at the hotel. The act prohibits the sale of game birds such as wild ducks and Canada geese.
Pate de fois gras (goose liver) is listed on the Montpelier menu at $32 for a two- to three-ounce serving, but a maitre d' at the restaurant said yesterday the goose used "is French, of course."
The 7l-year-old Coyne, whose worth is reportedly between $50 million and $100 million, said he treated the large fine much as others might a traffic offense. "It's like a parking ticket. You pay the $3 and forget about it."
The U.S. Attorney's office in Baltimore said Coyne was fined for violations dating back to March 6, 1976. The federal prosecutor said Coyne illegally purchased the geese from Charles Skipper, until recently the caretaker of Coyne's 500-acre Eastern Shore farm. In a sworn statement to prosecutors, Skipper alleged that Coyne received more than 600 geese and used them in the pate served at the Montpelier.
"Mr. Coyne told me that they served Canada goose and red cabbage," Skipper said in the statement.
"We have never used the geese at the Montpelier, never," Coyne said yesterday. "They asked about that, but it isn't true. It's a complete hoax. I kept the geese in my freezers at home and used them for private parties." He said the geese he returned have been given to a hospital on the Maryland Eastern Shore.
Coyne was one of five men fined by federal magistrate Fred Smalkin. Skipper, who was fired by Coyne after the investigation by Fish and Wildlife investigators, was fined $1,500; Larry Gay, coowner of Gay Brothers picking establishment, was fined $2,750, and John and Fred Musgrove, employes of the Madison for the last 18 years, were fined $1,000 each. Coyne said he paid the Musgroves' fines.
"I had a deal with Charlie Skipper," Coyne said in an interview. "He was the caretaker on my farm and had hunting and fishing rights. In return, any geese he shot, he gave to me. The Musgroves were the ones who picked them up. I never knew that he was getting the geese from Gay. I never paid Skipper for the geese."
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Gay operates a business that picked geese for hunters, and often had extra geese left behind by hunters. He sold them to Skipper, who paid him in goods from his store, Southern States Co-op. Skipper then passed the geese on to Coyne who sent the Musgroves to pick them up. According to court affidavits, the Musgroves delivered the geese to the hotel in plastic trash bags.
Coyne said one of the Musgroves is a waiter at the hotel, the other a housekeeper, and that they were represented in court by his Baltimore lawyers.
Sitting in his opulent office yesterday, surrounded by dozens of pictures of himself with famous people, Coyne said he was "horrified" by his involvement in the case. "I've been involved in something that I knew nothing about really," he said. "I went up to talk to the U.S. attorney in Baltimore. I thought if I cooperated completely this would all go away, but it didn't.
"I enjoy hunting and I enjoy geese," Coyne said. "I did not think I was doing anything illegal and I never paid Charlie any money for the geese. I'm very distressed about the way this has come out but I don't know what I can do about it. The attorneys are making it all sound so evil.
"I know a lot of people are going to think this is very funny," Coyne said with a wave of his hand. "But to me it isn't funny. Not the least bit funny at all." CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Hotel owner Marshall B. Coyne surrendered 67 Canada geese. "You pay the $3 and forget about it", he said. UPI