Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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South Dakota appeals court rules against game processor

Pierre, S.D. (AP) — A federal appeals court issued a decision
Tuesday that could reinstate the conviction of a Pierre game
processor who argued that a federal game warden had framed him for
possessing untagged geese.

However, Caleb Gilkerson said he intends to ask the 8th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision because he
believes the federal warden has been unfair.

“There’s no reason for me to let them walk all over me on this
case. I’ll do what I can to prove that I’m innocent,”Gilkerson
said.

Gilkerson has represented himself in the federal appeals court
because he cannot afford a lawyer, and he said he will continue to
fight the conviction without a lawyer.

A magistrate judge found Gilkerson guilty of violating the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act and fined him $2,100.

Gilkerson then appealed to U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann,
who threw out the conviction. Kornmann said federal regulations
prohibit facilities that handle migratory birds from having
untagged geese, and Gilkerson could not be convicted because he is
not a facility.

Kornmann said Gilkerson is an employee and one of the
stockholders of Steamboat Game and Fish Inc., a game processing
shop.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
overturned Kornmann’s ruling, saying the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
and associated regulations a define migratory bird preservation
facility to include a person.

The appeals panel sent the case back to district court in South
Dakota for further proceedings that could reinstate Gilkerson’s
conviction.

Embattled U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Bob Prieksat,
whose removal had been sought by Gov. Mike Rounds, testified in the
trial that he found untagged geese in Gilkerson’s game-processing
business in Pierre in December 2006.

Prieksat said those tags are required to identify which hunters
have shot birds and whether they have exceeded the bag limit.

Gilkerson testified that he believed Prieksat framed him by
removing tags from some geese the agent found in a freezer at the
business, which processes wild game and offers guide services for
hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.

The governor had asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to
fire Prieksat or transfer him because Rounds believed Prieksat had
been too aggressive and rude in checking whether hunters were
complying with the law. An agreement was reached last year that
allowed Prieksat to continue supervisory work but limited his work
as a field agent.

Gilkerson said Tuesday that Prieksat has continued to treat
hunters unfairly and has driven some commercial hunting operations
out of business.

“I’m just going to keep pushing forward and ask the courts to
look at this for what it is,”Gilkerson said. “This is an agent who
has a real problem with anybody who makes money off the
outdoors.’’

Gilkerson said Prieksat gave inconsistent testimony during the
trial. “We did not possess those untagged geese.’’

In his ruling last year, Judge Kornmann noted that Prieksat was
unpopular and many people had sought to have him removed from his
job.

In a footnote, the appeals panel said Prieksat’s popularity is
irrelevant to the case and that Kornmann was wrong to take notice
it.

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