A Cordova jury found Michael A. Roberts, 50, guilty of unlawful
possession of game following a two-day trial that concluded on June 23.
The trial was remarkable for several reasons, the first being that
Cordova has not had a criminal jury trial in approximately seven years.
Secondly, although jurors did not know Roberts and were not privy to his
prior record, this was a high-profile defendant.
Roberts' long history with the law ebbed into celebrity status in
1999 when he fled into the woods while being pursued by a trooper
helicopter following an extensive sting operation that began with an
inquiry from a California hunter who became suspicious of Roberts'
credentials. Roberts' East Coast family made an emotional public appeal
to the then-fugitive hunting guide to turn himself in after evading
arrest for approximately two weeks. In the end, Roberts was on the run
for almost a year before he was finally arrested and brought to trial on
16 charges including running an illegal guiding operation, guiding
without a license, hunting without a license - and similar to last
week's trial - unlawful possession of game and same-day airborne
hunting. At the time of the 2000 trial, investigators seized animal
parts including bear gallbladders they said were destined for sale on
the Korean black market.
According to court records, Roberts is a repeat offender who has
served jail time and whose other run-ins with the law include failure to
pay child support, using a false Social Security number, driving without
a license, flying without a license, theft, sub-legal hunts and wanton
waste of wildlife. His latest brush with the law came about while
Roberts and friend Theodore Williams were returning from a hunting trip
last fall to Cape Yakataga. Roberts, flying a friend's Piper Supercub,
touched down in Cordova briefly to refuel. Trooper Alex Arduser had
noticed the plane flying overhead earlier and while driving to the
office noticed the plane parked at the city airstrip. Arduser observed
moose antlers tied to the plane's struts and stopped briefly to ask the
travelers whether they had a moose harvest ticket. Williams replied that
he did, however it was somewhere in his luggage. Arduser asked Roberts
if the antlers were legal size and Roberts replied matter of factly that
yes, they measured 52 inches, a point which authorities later contested.
The travelers indicated to Arduser that they had been hunting 13 miles
from Cape Yakataga and had been weathered in for several days. The pair
was anxious to return to their final destination, which they indicated
was Anchorage. Arduser testified that he was mindful of the limited fall
daylight hours and knowing that it would take some time for them to
unpack the plane to locate the hunting license and then repack it, he
determined to let the men get under way. Arduser returned to his office
and got on the computer to look up the missing harvest ticket only to
discover that Williams did not in fact have a valid harvest ticket and
the case unfolded from there.
Williams was ultimately found guilty of hunting without a license. He
was fined $5,000 and served 10 days in jail.
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