A concerned citizen's tip about a trophy bull elk being illegally taken in October 2005 near Ten Sleep has led to an Oregon man being convicted for felony wildlife violations July 12 in U.S. District Court in Casper.
After James S. Robinson of West Lynn violated Wyoming statute by killing the bull elk Oct. 21, 2005 with an improper license - he only had a cow elk license for the area - the case became a federal Lacey Act violation when the illegally taken meat and mounted head and antlers were transported across state lines.
Robinson, 60, was fined $20,000 and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution to wildlife law enforcement in Wyoming and $100 in special assessments or court costs. Judge William Downes also revoked Robinson's hunting privileges in the United States for five years and ordered him to give three speeches a year about wildlife conservation and the consequences of violating the Lacey Act during the three years of his supervised probation.
The case started when Mike Ehlebracht, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Investigative Unit supervisor, received the tip in January 2010. He traveled to the Portland suburb in February and June of 2010, where he was assisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon State Police with the investigation.
The federal charges were filed against Robinson, a real estate developer, Sept. 23, 2010 in federal court in Casper. Robinson pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act on March 4, 2011 pursuant to a plea agreement negotiated with his attorneys.
The Lacey Act carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in federal prison, $250,000 in fines and three years of supervised probation following imprisonment. The Lacey Act also has provisions for the payment of restitution and forfeiture of any wildlife and any vehicles or equipment used in the crime.
The prosecutor, Darrell Fun, did an absolutely tremendous job of prosecuting this case and achieving the felony conviction," Ehlebracht said. "Kathy Crofts, our wildlife investigator in Cody, along with several other of our investigators were also key to the success of this case."
Like all criminal felony convictions, Robinson also loses his rights to vote, possess firearms and serve on a jury for life - unless the president issues a pardon or restores his rights.
"It's a sentence that's very appropriate for the crime, and I think the public service speeches Judge Downes ordered are an interesting new twist for a wildlife crime," Ehlebracht said.
In addition to the conservation/Lacey Act speeches, Robinson is also ordered to perform five public service announcements under the direction of the Game and Fish, USFWS and Oregon State Police. Robinson also forfeited a head and shoulder mount of the elk to the Game and Fish. The 6-by-7-point antlers score around 350 points on the Boone and Crockett scale.
Law enforcement and the court systems takes these wildlife violations very, very seriously," Ehlebracht said. "It is important to protect this hunting privilege so every hunter has an equal opportunity to draw these cherished licenses."
In 2005, the chance to draw the license in hunt area 45 where the crime was committed was only 9 percent for nonresidents and 24 percent for residents.