CHICAGO (AP) — A bald eagle rescued by a nature photographer from central Illinois has recovered and been returned to the wild, yet the man credited with saving him faces misdemeanor charges of interfering with wildlife.

Steve Patterson says he found two baby eagles and their nest blown out of a tree in June 2013. One appeared seriously injured. So, he took them to his home in Oglesby, along the Illinois River, and called the nonprofit Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, which took them in. The second eagle is still in rehabilitation.

Patterson's case has become a rallying point for those pushing for a state law to shield good Samaritans who help injured wildlife, the Chicago Sun-Times reported (http://bit.ly/1ARZMOD ).

Republican State Rep. Bob Pritchard, of Hinckley, has filed legislation for the session beginning Jan. 14. House Bill 109 would allow anyone who finds an injured, sick or crippled wild animal to take possession of it and immediately take it to a qualified rehabilitation facility.

"It's no different than a domesticated animal or even a human; if you have an injury and you can treat and rehabilitate, we ought to try and do that," Pritchard told the newspaper.

And, he says, it's a waste of taxpayers' money to prosecute someone whose intentions were good.

The rescued eagle was released Jan. 1 along the Mississippi River near Rock Island. The 18-month old bird was named Sam as a reference to the good Samaritan law that Patterson's supporters are seeking.

LaSalle County state's attorney Brian Towne sees the situation differently, contending that Patterson did more harm than good to the eaglets.

"He thumbs his nose at nature and the law, all under the guise of being a hero," Towne told the newspaper.

The birds were thin and dehydrated and had wing fractures when they were first brought to Flint Creek, which has locations at Chicago's Northerly Island and in the suburb of Barrington.

Patterson's first trial ended with a hung jury. A second trial starts Feb. 23. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine for each of the four misdemeanor charges.

"I just didn't want to see these two birds die on the ground," said Patterson, who was present for Sam's release.

Flint Creek Director Dawn Keller, wearing protective gloves, released him on the banks of the river, saying, "Good luck, buddy," as the bird spread its wings and took off.

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Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/index