Saturday, August 29, 2015

Montana: James Harrison banned for life from ever hunting in Montana after illegally killing bears

MONTANA -- A Darby man accused of being the ringleader of what’s been called the largest bear poaching case in state history will never again legally hunt, fish or trap in Montana.

James “Jimmy” Harrison, 63, won’t be able to take his grandkids hunting either as part of a sentence imposed Friday by Ravalli County District Court Judge James Haynes.

Harrison pleaded guilty in June to five felony counts that included unlawful possession of nine bears that were illegally killed over bait between 2009 and 2014.

On Friday, Haynes heard testimony that Harrison was a vital part of the Darby community and had suffered greatly since being charged with the crimes.

Harrison has owned and operated a hat-making business in downtown Darby for about 20 years. The three local men who testified on his behalf said Harrison has always been supportive to a variety of local organizations.

Gene Huckstadt owns the Old West Gallery and Candy Store in Darby. Harrison is his tenant.

“He’s a tremendous asset to our community,” Huckstadt said. “We have never heard anything negative, even with this situation that he’s going through.”

Paul Shirley of Darby said Harrison is “truly embarrassed by his conduct. He has clearly shown me that he is remorseful and contrite for what he did.”

I would believe he was "remorseful and contrite" if he had ONLY done it ONCE. However, he did it again and again and again and was only stopped because HE GOT CAUGHT. He is nasty POS who should be tarred and feathered and run out of town.

The judge also heard from a biologist who testified that the locations where the bears were taken is not prime black bear habitat and the overall bear population probably suffered as a result of the illegal kills.

State Game Warden Lou Royce said all of the nine bears killed were large, mature animals that the hunters sought as trophies. There wasn’t any evidence that meat was used for anything other than baiting additional bears, he said.

“In my opinion, it was strictly a trophy hunt,” Royce said.

Harrison was one of three Ravalli County men charged in the case.

Richard Sublette, a 56-year-old Hamilton resident, and Kyle L. Whyard, a 26-year-old Darby resident, pleaded guilty earlier to misdemeanor charges. Both paid fines, spent up to two weeks in jail and lost their hunting privileges for five years.

Montana: Kyle Whyard, 26, who considered himself a
"brave hunter", is sentenced to jail for baiting bears with
food and then sitting there and killing them one by one

On Friday, Haynes sentenced Harrison to a suspended 10-year term in the Montana State Prison.

As part of the conditions of that suspended sentence, Harrison will be required to pay $9,000 in restitution for the nine bears.

After taking into account the hardship that Harrison would have incurred both physically and financially in serving time in jail, Haynes agreed to allow him to donate $4,500 each to the conservation organizations Vital Ground and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation in lieu of jail time.

Harrison told the court that he had back surgery last spring and couldn’t bend over enough to put on his own socks. He also said his business was a one-person show and that spending time in jail could put his business in jeopardy.

Harrison said he’s been humiliated and humbled by this case.

“I’m very ashamed,” he said. “I’ve lost friends and I’ve lost family all because of the decisions I made … You can rest assured that nothing like this will ever happen again.”

As part of his sentence, Harrison will be required to spend 180 hours over the course of the next couple of years telling youngsters who attend hunter education classes what’s at stake when they decide to break hunting regulations.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game wardens pose with the nine
bears illegally killed by James Harrison and others.

Harrison told the judge that he had learned his lesson and would never stray outside the law again. He asked for leniency when it came to his hunting privileges.

“I just don’t think they should be taken away for the rest of my life,” Harrison said. “I would like to have the opportunity, when I’m older, to maybe one day take my grandson hunting.”

Deputy County Attorney Thorin Geist said Harrison knew what the rules were and decided not to follow them on numerous occasions.

This was not an isolated incident,” he said.

It would send the wrong message to the public to not take away Harrison’s hunting privileges for the rest of this life, he said.

“To me, I think the pillars of our community need to be held to a higher standard,” Geist said.

(Ravalli Republic, Perry Backus - August 28, 2015)

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