Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Felony dismissed in poaching case

Mayer still faces 3 misdemeanor game violations


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Tony Mayer

A felony charge has been dismissed against an anti-wolf activist who had been accused of illegally killing a trophy bull elk in northern Blaine County in 2009.

Nonetheless, 59-year-old Tony Mayer, a resident of Twin Falls and the founder of the anti-wolf website SaveElk.com, still faces three misdemeanor game charges related to the case.

Dismissal of the felony charge came earlier this month in Blaine County 5th District Court as part of a plea agreement between Mayer and the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. An amended criminal complaint now only charges Mayer with the misdemeanor crimes of hunting without a big-game elk tag, hunting without an archery permit and unlawful taking of wildlife.

All three of those crimes are punishable by up to six months in jail and loss of hunting and fishing privileges for up to three years. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Mayer could plead guilty to those crimes at a sentence hearing scheduled for June 3.

Since Mayer is no longer charged with a felony, the case has been remanded from district court to magistrate court, where misdemeanor cases are handled. The case is now in the hands of magistrate Judge Jason Walker.

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According to court records, the case dates to fall 2009 when Mayer and his family were on a wolf-hunting outing in the Alturas Lake area of northern Blaine County. Mayer killed an elk instead and posted stories and photos of the hunt shortly after on two sportsmen's websites.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game initiated an investigation after deciding that information contained in Mayer's website stories suggested that the animal was killed after the bow-hunting season ended in the Alturas Lake area on Sept. 30. Mayer has claimed in court documents that he shot the animal on Sept. 30 and then trailed the wounded elk for two days before it fell into a creek and drowned.

Mayer was initially charged with the felony crime of "flagrant unlawful killing and/or possession of a trophy bull elk" since the animal had antlers large enough to qualify it as a trophy elk under Idaho law. He was also charged with three misdemeanor game violations.

The reason for dismissal of the felony charge was not clear in the publicly available court case file and neither the prosecuting attorney's office nor John Lothspeich, a Jerome attorney representing Mayer, were willing to discuss the matter this week with the Idaho Mountain Express.

"Because the case is ongoing, I am unable to provide you with the explanation you requested," Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback wrote in an email. "When the case is resolved, I will be able to provide a comment."

The remaining issue in the case appears to be the severity of the sentence that Mayer will receive. The sentence hearing is set to last about two hours, with both parties providing witnesses.

According to court documents, Mayer and his wife, Judie, will testify regarding circumstances of the hunt, and prosecutors will call Fish and Game investigators to the stand.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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