Federal Appeals Court Rules Penalties Too Steep In Butler Poaching Case
The sentencing phase of an aging poaching case involving two East Texas brothers who pled guilty on felony charges of conspiracy and wildlife trafficking in Kansas recently turned another page.
On Sept. 13, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver published documents indicating that the penalties handed down to James Bobby Butler and Marlin Jackson Butler, both of Martinsville, have been overturned.
In June 2011, U.S. Senior District Judge Wesley Brown sentenced the Butlers to prison time and ordered them to pay brisk fines for their part if what some dubbed the largest trophy deer poaching case in Kansas history.
James Butler was initially sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $50,000 in fines and restitution for his part in the crimes. Meanwhile, Marlin Butler was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $20,000 in fines and restitution.
Both men also were ordered to serve three years on supervised release after the prison terms were served. Special conditions of the supervised release include no hunting, fishing or guiding.
According to court documents, the brothers operated a hunting camp called "Camp Lone Star" in Comanche County, Kan., between 2005 and 2008. There, prosecutors say they sold guided hunts to non-resident hunters for the purpose of illegally hunting and killing white-tailed deer and mule deer. The hunts reportedly sold for $2,500 to $5,500 each.
Initially, the case involved the poaching of more than 100 deer by as many as 60 clients.
In March 2011, the brothers pleaded guilty to helping clients kill 25 whitetail bucks illegally. James Butler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, one substantive Lacey Act count and one count of obstruction of justice for instructing an employee to dispose of some deer mounts before investigators arrived. Marlin Butler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and one Lacey Act count.
The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport and sell, in interstate commerce, any wildlife taken or possessed in violation of state law or regulation.
According to court documents filed last week, the Tenth Circuit Court did not debate the fact that the Butler brothers broke the law. However, it did take issue with the value the U.S. District Court in Wichita placed on the individual deer when it levied sentences against the two men.
The court also indicated that the terms of James Butlers supervised release are too restrictive and would prevent him from continuing his occupation as the manager of commercial deer operation, where he has worked since 2006.
According to Jim Cross, public information officer for the U.S. Attorneys office in the District of Kansas, the case will now go back to the U.S. District Court in Kansas for reevaluation and resentencing.
It is worth noting the Judge Brown died last January at the age of 104. A new judge will be appointed to reevaluate the findings and hand down sentencing to the Butler brothers.
Cross said via email that the judge at the second sentencing hearing "will consider both sides arguments about the market value of the animals that were killed. The judge also will reconsider the special conditions of Butlers supervised release. He could change the conditions, or provide additional findings that would justify the original conditions."
Cross said no date had been set for the second sentencing as of press time.
City of Shermans Drinking Water Violates Lacey Act
The City of Sherman is defying federal law by pumping drinking water out of Lake Texoma.
Because of zebra mussels, every time the city pumps water out of Lake Texoma, it is violating the Lacey Act, a federal law partially designed to protect the environment.
Regulators have known about the questionable pumping practice for years.
The border between Texas and Oklahoma runs right through Lake Texoma. The exact location of that border was in dispute until 2000, when the two states finally hashed it out for good.
However, the commission drawing the border missed the $150 million Texoma Pump Station.
All the pumps that used to be in Texas are now in Oklahoma.
The Lacey Act prohibits transferring zebra mussels from one state to another.
One Blind Spider Forces Redesign of $15-million Highway Project
The recent discovery of a single endangered spider at the construction site of a $15.1 million highway underpass in San Antonio means the state will have to completely redesign it.
The San Antonio Express News reports The state has put the project connecting Texas 151 and Loop 1604 on the Northwest Side on hold indefinitely and released the contractor.
Hydro-geologist George Veni first identified the dime-sized Braken Bat Cave Meshweaver spider, which is blind as a species, in 1980 in northwestern Bexar County, about five miles from the construction site.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) redesign will have to steer away from any significant excavation of the area where the spider might live.
Construction of an underpass is "highly unlikely," TxDOT-San Antonio spokesman Josh Donat said. "Weve been asked to avoid further excavation if we can."
The state decided after consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration to release the contractor working on the project.