Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2003


Illegal hunts net Arizona man jail time, fines

Craig Daily Press, CO

By Jeremy Browning

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Judge Mary Lynne James showed little sympathy when she sentenced a former Craig man for wildlife crimes Tuesday, despite the defense attorney's claim that the crimes were motivated by "financial hardships."

"The first thing to consider is if you can't do the time, don't do the crime," James said when she addressed Aaron Reidhead, 28, before sentencing him.

"Mr. Reidhead, I don't know why it never clicked with you that these were rules and regulations that applied to you," James said. "These rules have bitten you, and they have bitten you hard."

James sentenced Reidhead to 60 days in jail beginning Jan. 19. She ordered fines and restitution in excess of $7,000, along with three years of supervised probation beginning immediately. His hunting, fishing and trapping privileges have been revoked for life.

James explained that wildlife is "terribly important" to the economy of Colorado. She said the wildlife belongs to the people of the state, which sets up rules for the management of wildlife and the licensing of outfitters.

"That's why we have a guide and outfitters board," James said.

Reidhead was convicted at a Nov. 4 jury trial of illegal sale of wildlife and conspiracy to commit illegal sale of wildlife. In addition to the two felony convictions, Reidhead was found guilty of a misdemeanor count of outfitting without a proper license.

The charges arose from an investigation in January in which an undercover officer from the Colorado Division of Wildlife employed Reidhead as an outfitter in a hunt for a mountain lion.

At that time, Reidhead lived in Colorado. He has since moved back to Arizona.

The officer had responded to an advertisement Reidhead posted in a local gas station. Reidhead advertised "guaranteed lion hunts." However, Reidhead was not a licensed outfitter. Reidhead did not even possess a Colorado hunting license, and his license had been revoked for wildlife crimes in Arizona.

Reidhead guided the undercover officer on a hunt in which the officer Killed a lion. Reidhead later told the officer to lie about who guided the $2,000 hunt, according to court documents.

James listened to statements by the prosecution and the defense before she sentenced Reidhead.

The probation department recommended the court sentence Reidhead to 45 days in the Moffat County Jail, followed by three-years of supervised probation.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Waite asked for a longer jail sentence.

"Probation itself is a privilege," Waite said, noting that the probation department did not recommend a state prison term. "But I believe there ought to be a punitive measure as well."

Waite said Reidhead had a "history of violating wildlife laws in Colorado and Arizona." Waite asked for a 90-day sentence to county jail, in addition to supervised probation.

Reidhead's attorney, Larry Combs, argued that the so-called history of violations amounted to three incidents in which Reidhead was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In one case, Reidhead was part of a hunting party in Arizona that illegally killed a mountain lion.

"Aaron did not pull the trigger," Combs said.

Reidhead already faced "financial devastation" as a result of the convictions, Combs said. Jail time would cause Reidhead and his family, which includes four children younger than six, extreme hardship, Combs said.

A jail sentence would hurt the family financially, and it was financial problems that motivated Reidhead to post the advertisement in the first place, Combs said.

"He did this to make money to meet family living expenses," Combs said.

Combs asked for unsupervised probation and no jail time. If the court imposed jail time, he asked that it be limited to 30 days, beginning Feb. 1, which would give his client time to make arrangements.

Combs spoke of Reidhead the father, the husband, the construction worker who attends church every Sunday. He said many family members wrote the court on Reidhead's behalf asking for leniency.

Also, Combs said others who pleaded guilty to similar charges after the same illegal hunt received much less severe penalties.

"I question whether this is proportionate," Combs said.

Waite said the others charged after the incident didn't show the same "disdain for the legal system," that Reidhead showed. After Reidhead's license was revoked in Arizona, he continued to ignore wildlife laws, and committed felonies in Colorado, Waite said.

Unsupervised probation would be an inappropriate sentence, and only strict probation could keep Reidhead in compliance, Waite argued.

Otherwise, "Mr. Reidhead will be out there hunting lions again -- that's what he'll be doing," Waite said.

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