A Montana man just lately obtained a felony sentence in a high-profile—and drawn out—poaching case. On December 18, 2023, 27-year-old Earl Russell Benes was sentenced by District Court docket Choose Randal Spaulding in Musselshell County. Choose Spaulding doled out an $8,200 nice, 28 days in jail, and a 10-year-hunting ban. The punishments had been far lower than prosecutors had initially sought.
The sentencing is the fruits of a protracted poaching case that dates again to 2019, when based on reporting on court docket paperwork by the Helena Unbiased Document, Benes admitted to capturing three elk out of season from a car over a number of days. Benes reportedly advised wardens that he emptied a pistol into the herd of elk on the way in which residence from a celebration to “make these ******* transfer.”
A district lawyer filed two dozen prices together with eight felonies. Had Benes been convicted on all counts, he would have confronted as much as $ 278,500 in fines and 83 years in jail. Moreover, previous to the 2019 incident, Benes had already had his looking privileges revoked for an antelope poaching incident.
Nonetheless, regardless of admitting to capturing a number of elk out of season, Benes managed to solely be convicted by a jury in 2021 of poaching one elk on 5 prices: Looking with out a license, waste of a sport animal, looking throughout closed season, looking over the restrict, and looking whereas suspended.
A former county lawyer just lately advised the Helena Unbiased that he suspects Benes was in a position to duck the costs on two of the elk as a result of prosecutors couldn’t discover the handgun he used. In Montana, felony verdicts have to be unanimous, that means only one dissenter within the jury might trigger a conviction to fail.
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Prosecutors had sought to revoke Benes’s looking privileges for all times—which appears affordable, given Benes’s historical past of wildlife infractions. Benes should report back to jail for his 28-day time period throughout the subsequent six months.