Kansas Hunting Camp Owners Face Sentencing This Week

I hadn’t heard of this story until someone pointed it out to me. Two Texas brothers ran a deer camp in Kansas where they encouraged their clients to spotlight deer, hunt without licenses and use firearms during archery seasons. They’re actually facing some pretty stiff sentences – and since the government routinely hands out wrist slaps to pedophiles and murderers I’m not sure how I feel about that. But these people were basically running a poaching operation and knew what they were doing was wrong:

WICHITA, Kan. — Two Texas brothers face sentencing next week on conspiracy and wildlife trafficking charges for offering guided hunts at a Kansas hunting club to hunters who paid thousands of dollars to illegally kill deer.

James Butler Jr., the owner and operator of Camp Lone Star in Coldwater, Kan., will learn his punishment Tuesday. His brother, Marlin Butler, who worked as a guide, faces sentencing Friday.

Both men have pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits the interstate transport of any wildlife taken in violation of state regulations.

Prosecutors have recommended a 41-month sentence for James Butler, a fine of $25,000 and restitution of the same amount to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The government is recommending that Marlin Butler receive a prison term of 27 months, a fine of $10,000 and pay restitution of $10,000 to the state wildlife department.

U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown is not bound by sentencing recommendations in the plea agreements.

How much time, if any, either man serves in prison hinges in part on what market value the judge places on the illegally taken deer.

A presentence report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office determined that the amount of loss should be $120,000, an amount the defense disputes as too high.

Roger Falk, the defense attorney for Marlin Butler, argued in a court filing that the loss suffered by the state is only $10,000. He based his calculation on a Kansas statute that values each deer at $400 for reimbursement purposes.

Prosecutors allege the brothers, both from Martinsville, Texas, charged out-of-state hunters $3,500 per hunt with archery equipment and $5,000 per hunt with a firearm for guided hunts at Camp Lone Star and some 50,000 nearby acres leased for hunting activities in Kansas.

The indictment alleges that during the guided hunts the Butlers and others encouraged hunters to take deer illegally by hunting without a valid license. They also were accused of letting hunters illegally spotlight deer during night hunts and use illegal equipment, such as firearms during archery season.

Although the Butler brothers were the only ones charged, a court filing indicated that the government at one time targeted more than 60 hunters who illegally killed more than 119 deer between the 2005-2008 hunting seasons, including the taking of 70 trophy white-tail bucks. Search warrants were executed in Louisiana, Kansas and Texas.

They’re also facing obstruction charges which can carry 20 years. As always the cover-up is usually worse than the crime.

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