Judge sets resentencing in Kan. hunting camp case
Published on -7/9/2013, 4:58 PM
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A federal judge on Tuesday set a resentencing date in the case of two Texas brothers who ran a hunting camp in Kansas where hunters paid thousands of dollars to illegally shoot deer.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot scheduled James and Marlin Butler's sentencing for Aug. 28 in the wake of an appeals court ruling overturning their prison terms.
Belot told attorneys in a letter that he would hear testimony at the resentencing about the fair market price of wild deer parts such as antlers and mounts.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in its decision last year, said the district court made a mistake in 2011 in calculating sentences on the full price of a guided hunt, rather than the actual value of the animals.
The Butlers, of Martinsville, Texas, ran Camp Lone Star near Coldwater, Kan. James Butler owned the camp and was initially sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and $25,000 in restitution to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Marlin Butler, who worked as a guide, was initially sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and $10,000 in restitution.
In September, the appeals court threw out the prison terms and sent the case back to the district court in Kansas for resentencing.
The federal investigation into Camp Lone Star is believed to be one of the largest criminal prosecutions involving the illegal taking of deer. The Butler brothers were convicted under the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits interstate transport of any wildlife taken in violation of state regulations. Search warrants were executed in Louisiana, Kansas and Texas.
At least 25 hunters were eventually sentenced on lesser charges connected to activities at the hunting camp.
The brothers pleaded guilty in 2011 to felony charges of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and violation of the Lacey Act. James Butler also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.
The appeals court took issue with U.S. District Court Judge Wesley Brown's valuation of the animals involved. Brown valued them at $120,000, a figure that resulted in an eight-level enhancement to the guideline range sentence. The appeals court said the district court must ascertain the actual retail market value of the deer in calculating a new sentence. However, James Butler still will be required to pay $25,000 to Kansas, the appeals court said.
Prosecutors said the Butler brothers 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 government alleged that during the guided hunts, the Butlers and others encouraged hunters to take deer illegally by hunting without a valid license. The brothers also are accused of letting hunters illegally spotlight deer during night hunts and use illegal equipment, such as firearms during archery season.