Report from Washington
Monopoly is a fun board game and hunting is a wholesome sport, but lying to the judge about poaching is a dangerous game. A father and son poaching team from Sugar City found that out the hard way when they broke the law and then gambled on a lie. They lost and drew the "GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL" card from the Chance card stack.
Early last December, after receiving reports of spotlighting on previous mornings, Senior Conservation Officers Joe Curry, John Hanson and Justin Williams headed out north of Ashton in the early morning hours. Once they arrived in the area where the previous nocturnal poaching had been reported, they set up a full-sized elk mount. Conservation officers across the nation have made such simulated wildlife a standard part of the toolbox they use to catch poachers. When problems occur, the simulated wildlife is placed in the problem area, with a safe backstop in case a poacher shoots. In this case, the officers picked the right tool for the job.
Nearly two hours before legal shooting hours, conservation officers observed two men use their vehicle's headlights to illuminate the fake elk and each shoot at it. This was not the first time that the father and son team had been cited for spotlighting or various other fish and game violations, but soon they would be graduating to a higher crime by committing perjury before a judge.
Later, the two appeared in Fremont County Court before Judge Keith Walker regarding the December spotlighting citations. When asked under oath by the judge if they had previous records, both lied and replied "No." Based on their responses, the judge handed down what would have been a typical sentence.
But shortly afterward, when the judge learned that the men had lied, they were summoned back for a sentencing review. This time when they appeared before the judge and their true histories were presented, a much different sentence was handed down.
The father was fined $1,000 plus court costs. His hunting and fishing licenses were revoked for three years and he was placed on a two-year probation during which he may not associate with any hunting or fishing camp or party, or even possess hunting or fishing equipment in his vehicles during the hunting or fishing seasons. The son was fined $500 plus court costs and received the same strict hunting and fishing prohibitions. Both men were also sentenced to 180 days in jail, with the father being ordered to immediately serve 10 days and the son to serve five days, the remainder of days held in abeyance pending probation. Because of their records, Judge Walker ordered both men placed into immediate custody.
Officer Williams said, "(The father) has a total of nine fishing and hunting violations, (the son) has four. These fellows weren't making honest mistakes, they were repeating crimes." Because the wildlife resources belong to all citizens of the state, poachers are stealing from everyone. "Every time an animal is killed illegally we are all robbed. There is no difference between a poacher and a thief. They both take something that doesn't belong to them," Williams said.
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