Ex-NFL star pleads guilty to filming without permit

Posted: Thursday, February 02, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Former NFL star Larry Csonka, the host of a cable television outdoors show, pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegal filming in the Tongass National Forest.

As part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Csonka pleaded guilty to knowingly conducting work activity in a national forest without obtaining a special use permit.

Csonka agreed to pay $3,887 in restitution for filming about 10 shows on U.S. Forest Service land, said assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Goeke.

At sentencing April 19, Goeke said, prosecutors will request a sentence of probation for one year and a $5,000 fine.

Csonka could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Csonka is host of "NAPA's North to Alaska," billed as a show on fishing, hunting, history and customs that explores a new area of Alaska each week. The show appears on the Outdoor Life Network.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Csonka admitted that his production company, Zonk! Productions, in August 2002 filmed an episode of what was then called "Stihl's North to Alaska" along the Blind River Area on Mitkoff Island in the Tongass. The episode was broadcast in May 2003.

A crew filmed another episode in September 2005 in the Alaganik Slough at Cordova, part of the Chugach National Forest, and again did not obtain a special use permit for commercial work, prosecutors said.

Csonka agreed that as a condition of probation, he will not film without obtaining all required permits, Goeke said.

The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor offense is six months in prison, a $10,000 fine and five years probation.

In September, Csonka was one of six people rescued by the Coast Guard during a harrowing night aboard a rolling and pitching 28-foot boat in the Bering Sea.

Csonka, his partner, a film crew and a guide had been hunting for reindeer on remote Umnak Island in the Aleutian Islands while filming an episode for his television show.

Heading to the Aleut village of Nikolski on the southwest side of the island, the vessel encountered 40-knot winds and waves the Coast Guard said were 9 feet high and those on board said reached 20 feet.

Five miles from the village, the skipper sent out a distress call. Villagers used vehicle headlights to try to guide the vessel but high seas pushed the boat away.

A Coast Guard helicopter from Kodiak lifted off the six people on board one by one using a basket. The vessel was abandoned.

Csonka was a much-heralded fullback at Syracuse University and a first-round draft choice by the Miami Dolphins in 1968.

He appeared with the Dolphins in three Super Bowls from 1971 to 1973 and played on the Dolphin team that was 17-0 in 1972.

He retired in January 1980 and was elected to the pro football Hall of Fame in 1987.

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