The duo was accused of stuffing weights and fish fillets into their official competition submissions.
Two men accused of illegally putting weights in their fish at a competitive fishing tournament on Lake Erie pleaded not guilty to cheating and a handful of other charges this week, per the Associated Press.
Jacob Runyan, 42, and Chase Cominsky, 35, did not make comments during their brief appearances in court in Cleveland Wednesday. Their attorneys and assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James Gutierrez also declined to comment on the case after the pair’s hearing.
Cheating allegations against Runyan and Cominsky first emerged on Sept. 30 when The Herald out of Sharon, Pa. reported that tournament officials at a Lake Erie Walleye Trail Championship event discovered lead weights and fish fillets inside the walleye that the two anglers submitted for the competition. The tournament director became suspicious of the abnormal weight of the walleye and cut open the fish in front of a crowd that grew angry as the situation unfolded.
Runyan and Cominsky, who were on top of the leaderboard until the tournament director cut open their fish, were disqualified. A different duo was crowned as the winners, earning a first place prize of approximately $28,000.
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.
The instance wasn’t the first time that Runyan and Cominsky found themselves shrouded by controversy during a competitive fishing event. According to the Toledo Blade, the duo was disqualified at last year’s Lake Erie Fall Brawl tournament following their win after one of them failed a polygraph test.
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