Texas Man Sentenced to Jail in Connection with Kansas Deer Hunting and Guiding Operation

A Texas man was sentenced in federal court in Wichita on felony
charges of conspiracy, wildlife trafficking and obstruction of
justice related to the illegal sale of guided deer hunts in
southern Kansas, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney
General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural
Resources Division and Barry Grissom, U.S. Attorney for the
District of Kansas.

James Bobby Butler, Jr., 42, of Martinsville, Tex., was
sentenced to 41 months in federal prison, to be followed by three
years of supervised release during which Butler will be banned from
all hunting and guiding. Butler was also ordered to pay a $25,000
fine to the Lacey Act reward fund, and $25,000 restitution to the
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Butler pleaded guilty in
March 2010 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, one
Lacey Act interstate trafficking count and one count of obstruction
of justice. His brother, Marlin Jackson Butler, 36, also of
Martinsville, pleaded guilty in March 2011 to one count of
conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and one Lacey Act count. Marlin
Butler is scheduled to be sentenced on June 24, 2011.

“Thanks to outstanding cooperation between federal and state law
enforcement agents and prosecutors, we put an end to a criminal
conspiracy that took valuable and limited wildlife resources
through unlawful and unethical means,” said Assistant Attorney
General Moreno. “This prosecution sends a message to hunters and
guides in Kansas and elsewhere that there will be serious
consequences for those who seek to profit by violating state and
federal wildlife laws, especially at the expense of those who hunt
and guide lawfully.”

“Illegal wildlife trafficking is a threat to the natural
resources of Kansas,” Grissom said. “Our goal is to preserve and
protect wildlife for everyone to enjoy – including hunters who
abide by the law.”

The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to
knowingly transport or sell in interstate commerce any wildlife
taken or possessed in violation of state law or regulation.

According to court documents filed in the case, James and Marlin
Butler conspired together to knowingly transport and sell in
interstate commerce deer that had been hunted in violation of
Kansas state law. In particular, the brothers operated a guiding
service and hunting camp near Coldwater, Kan., at which they sold
guiding services to out-of-state hunters for the purpose of
illegally hunting and killing white-tailed deer and mule deer.
Hunters guided by the Butler brothers killed deer in excess of
annual bag limits, hunted deer without permits or with permits for
the wrong deer management unit, killed deer using illegal
equipment, and hunted using prohibited methods such as
spotlighting. The guided hunts were sold for between $2,500 and
$5,500, and in several instances resulted in the killing of
trophy-sized buck deer. In addition to selling guiding services,
the brothers also arranged for transport of the deer, in particular
the antlers and capes, from Kansas to Texas and Louisiana.

James Butler also pleaded guilty to instructing another person
to conceal or destroy evidence during the investigation.

“This is the largest case in the history of wildlife law
enforcement in Kansas,” said Steve Oberholtzer, Special Agent in
Charge of the Mountain-Prairie Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. “Trophy deer are an important resource for the state of
Kansas from both wildlife and economic standpoints. Joint
investigations such as this one demonstrate that the combined
efforts of state and federal agencies and our federal prosecutors
result in prosecutions that hold those who violate the law
accountable. We are grateful to the Kansas Department of Wildlife
and Parks and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their assistance in
this case and hope that it will serve as a deterrent to others who
might consider exploiting our nation’s wildlife for personal
gain.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the Texas
Parks and Wildlife Department, and jointly prosecuted by District
of Kansas U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom’s office and the Justice
Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division,
Environmental Crimes Section.

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