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Fishermen caught cheating during walleye tournament plead guilty

jacob runyan and chase cominsky with their attorneys in court
Matthew Richmond
Ideastream Public Media
Lawyer Kevin Spellacy, Chase Cominsky, lawyer Gregory Gentile and Jacob Runyan (left to right) appeared in court March 27, 2023 where the defendants pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor charge for cheating during a 2022 fishing tournament.

Two fishermen who were caught cheating during a walleye fishing tournament in September pleaded guilty in Cuyahoga County court Monday.

Prosecutors recommended six months of probation, the forfeiture of a fishing boat and loss of their fishing licenses for three years.

Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky were originally charged with 3 felonies and a misdemeanor after walleye they claimed to have caught during a fishing competition in September were found to have weights inside them. The tournament was judged based on the weight of the catch.

A video of the tournament director cutting the fish open to reveal weights inside the fish, in front of other competitors, went viral. The case garnered international media attention.

Cominsky and Runyan were scheduled for trial Monday before entering guilty pleas to one of the felony counts and one misdemeanor. A documentary camera crew joined local media in the courtroom for their guilty pleas.

Under the plea deal, two felony charges, including attempted grand (based on the nearly $30,000 prize), were dismissed against both men. The guilty pleas were for a felony charge of cheating during a sporting event and one misdemeanor illegal possession of wildlife.

Judge Stephen Gall has scheduled a May 11 sentencing for Runyan and Cominsky.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.