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TX: Texas outlaws slapped with brisk fines, jail time in deer poaching/farming cases

May 6, 2012

By Matt Williams, LufkinDailyNews.com

Gone are the days when game laws didn’t have teeth. Kill a deer or a duck or any other game animal illegally these days and you are going to get bit if the law dogs catch you. Depending on the circumstances, the bite could cost you a small fortune in fines or earn you a trip to the slammer. Possibly both
 
Six East Texas men recently learned the hard way that breaking state game laws can mean big bumps in the road if you happen to get caught. To wit:
 
On April 30, Justin Klein of Center was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and $25,000 in restitution to the state of Kansas after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of interstate transportation of wildlife taken in violation of state law.
 
Klein was one of more than a dozen men charged with illegal hunting activity in Kansas following a multi-year deer poaching probe conducted by several state law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
 
According to court records, the case initially involved the poaching of more than 100 deer by as many as 60 clients who purchased hunts between 2005-08 through a guide service run by two East Texas brothers, James Bobby Butler and Marlin Jackson Butler, both of Martinsville.
 
The Butler brothers ran a hunting camp called “Camp Lone Star." There, prosecutors say they sold guided hunts to non-resident hunters for the purpose of illegally hunting and killing white-tailed deer and mule deer.

The hunts reportedly sold for $2,500 to $5,500 each. 
 
In May 2010, the Butlers were named in a 23-count felony indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Wichita, Kan. Both men eventually struck plea deals and were sentenced in June 2011 by U.S. Senior District Judge Wesley Brown.
 
James Butler, 42, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $50,000 in fines and restitution. Marlin Butler, 36, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay $20,000 in fines and restitution. 
 
Klein’s sentencing came on the heels of months of legal wrangling that also ended in a plea deal. Last July, Klein was indicted on three counts of transporting deer across state lines after the deer were taken illegally in Comanche County, Kan. The document alleges the deer were taken in violation of Kansas hunting laws on Nov. 1, 2006 and Nov. 1, 2007.
 
According to the factual basis of the plea agreement, Klein acknowledged killing and possessing a whitetail deer near Coldwater, Kan., on or about Nov. 1, 2006, without a valid deer hunting tag.
 
As part of his probation, Klein will not be allowed to hunt, fish, trap, or guide, or be with anyone else engaged in those activities, anywhere in the United States.
 
In a separate case, four Wood County men recently pled guilty to multiple charges involving the illegal harvest of more than two dozen deer in Wood and Rains counties in northeast Texas.
 
Among them were a father/son team, John Burns, 41,  and James Burns, 21, both of Alba; Dustin Potter, 21, of Quitman; and William Lewis, 20, of Yantis.
 
The convictions came on the heels of a 16-month month investigation carried out by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens Kurt Kelley, Derek Spitzer and Steve Stapleton. Officers determined there were more than 500 offenses committed, including 40 state jail felonies.
 
According to TPWD reports, 22 charges were filed against the men in Wood and Rains counties, including nine Class A misdemeanor chargers and two state jail felonies in each county.
 
According to Wood County Assistant District Attorney Joey Fenlaw, John Burns was sentenced to three years in county jail and ordered to pay $12,000 in fines for night hunting, hunting with artificial light and hunting from a vehicle.
 
Fenlaw said James Burns pled guilty to taking wildlife without landowner consent, a state jail felony, and sentenced to one year in state prison. All total, the sentences handed down added up to over $41,000 in fines, 3,000 hours of community service and 12 years of jail or probation time.

Additionally, all of the men lost their hunting privileges for five years…….
 
Also on April 30, U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Guthrie ordered a Cherokee County man to pay a $243,000 fine to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Lacey Act Reward Account and $157,000 to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation after pleading guilty to three counts of transportation of wildlife in interstate commerce in violation of state law.
 
According to TPWD reports, Blake Powell, 32, was the owner of a deer breeding facility called Rockin’ P White Tails. The report says Powell sold numerous deer in 2007 that were acquired from out-of-state sources and imported to Texas in violation of state law.
 
Last September, Powell’s grandfather, Billy Powell of Troup, agreed to pay
$1.5 million in fines and restitution after pleading guilty to smuggling at least 37 deer from Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio into Texas in violation of state and federal laws. Powell is the owner of the 5P Ranch. His sentencing called for three years probation and six months of home confinement.

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