MT: Florida man resolves some poaching charges
Florida man resolves some poaching charges
February 9, 2011
A former Florida game agent charged in a Montana poaching case has
resolved some of the charges against him by forfeiting bond.
Richard "Rick" Staton, who is expected to be a key witness in the cases
against five other Florida residents, a Montana man and a Utah outfitter,
has paid a total of $775 in fines and court fees to resolve misdemeanor
charges in Big Horn County Justice Court of illegal use of a hunting license
and unlawful possession of a game animal.
Staton remains charged in Yellowstone County Justice Court with one count
of illegal use of a hunting license, but court officials said he has
indicated he will also forfeit bond in that case.
Staton is one of eight people charged in what state authorities describe
in court records as an extensive list of alleged big game violations over a
three-year period by family members and business partners of a wealthy
Among other allegations, the defendants are accused of killing trophy elk
and deer without valid licenses. In several alleged incidents, game animals
were killed and not retrieved or the meat allowed to rot. According to court
records, during one such hunt a chainsaw was used on the carcass of a bull
elk to position it for a picture.
The developer, Mark Gary Morse, is charged in Big Horn County District
Court with two felony counts of unlawful possession of a game animal and one
count of accountability for hunting without a license. Morse is the
president and chief operating officer of The Villages, an exclusive
retirement community near Orlando. He also is the owner and co-owner of two
large ranch properties in Yellowstone and Big Horn counties.
Mark Morse, 50, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. A scheduling
conference in the case is set for next month.
Morse's wife, M'Lissa Morse, and their daughter, Kelsea Louise Morse, are
facing misdemeanor charges in Yellowstone and Big Horn counties.
M'Lissa Morse is accused of unlawful possession of a buck mule deer, and
her trial is currently scheduled for March 17 in Big Horn County Justice
Kelsea Morse is charged in Yellowstone County Justice Court with two
misdemeanor counts of hunting elk and turkey without a license. A jury trial
in that case has been set for April 15.
James Ike Rainey, 51, owns a construction company that does work in The
Villages and is also charged in the case. Rainey is a co-owner with Mark
Morse of a ranch that straddles Yellowstone and Big Horn counties where many
of the alleged poaching incidents took place.
Rainey is charged with four hunting-related offenses in Big Horn County
District Court, including a felony count of unlawful possession of a game
animal. He faces two misdemeanor counts of waste or abandonment of a game
animal and a third misdemeanor of hunting without a license.
Stanton's Florida attorney has filed numerous briefs in the case since
the charges were filed in October, including a motion to require Montana to
reimburse his client for costs associated with ensuring a fair trial in
light of public statements made about the case by a spokesman for the
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. That motion has since been
tabled, and a status hearing in the case has been scheduled for Feb. 24.
Another business associate of Morse, 52-year-old Lenard Lee Powell, also
of Florida, has been charged in Big Horn County District Court with a felony
count of unlawful possession of a game animal.
Staton, who is described in court records as a former Florida game
warden, and another defendant, Toby Griffith of Montana, were hired by Morse
and Rainey to manage their Montana properties, according to the records.
Both men gave extensive statements to Montana investigators and witnessed
many of the alleged hunting violations, court records indicate.
Griffith is charged in Yellowstone County District Court with one felony
count of unlawful possession of a game animal and a misdemeanor count of
illegal use of a hunting license. His trial is set for April 4.
The last defendant in the case is David Duncan, an outfitter from Utah
who is charged in Lewis and Clark County with illegally transferring his
outfitter license for use by Morse and Rainey.
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