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AZ Wildlife Official Commits Hunting Violation, Turns Self In, Pleads Not Guilty

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August 14, 2012

AZ Wildlife Official Commits Hunting Violation, Turns Self In, Pleads Not Guilty

By Chad Love

Here's an interesting ethical question: if you unknowingly commit a wildlife violation, realize your mistake and then report yourself, should you be rewarded for your honesty and given a slap on the wrist or should you be forced to pay the fine? That's the scenario playing out in Arizona, where a state game and fish commissioner who self-reported his wildlife violation is a bit upset that he may be charged for the offense he reported...

From this story in the Arizona Republic:

Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner Jack Husted has been cited for reportedly shooting a prairie dog out of season, according to Round Valley Justice Court records. Husted has pleaded not guilty to a class 2 misdemeanor. Husted said he was looking for rabbits to shoot with the son of a family friend on April 9. He didn't see any, but then the pair came across some Gunnison Prairie Dogs. After seven or eight misses, the 13-year-old shot the animal, Husted said. But these animals cannot be hunted after April 1.

According to the story, when Husted found out that prairie dog season was closed, he went to the commission director and reported his violation. According to department policy, Husted must be cited for the violation, which could result in fines and (theoretically) jail time. And that's when things got a little complicated. Apparently, Husted wasn't happy about the possibility of actually being punished for his inadvertent crime, so he pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing later this month. As for the game and fish commission, they laud Husted's honesty and integrity, and say there's no way Husted will lose his license or his position.

Apparently, though, Husted's still a bit miffed.

From the story: But Husted isn't happy about the department's decision to ticket him. "I think it's a little heavy-handed," he said. "Rather than being rewarded (for self-reporting), I was disciplined. I'm looking forward to my day in court."

Thoughts? What say you? You are, after all, Chief Justice of the Court of Public Opinion, so how would you rule on this ethical conundrum?

Comments (11)

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from jcarlin wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I'm pretty sure if I grab a WCO and say something to the effect of "Hey, I got a squirrel hear, but I didn't realize the season was open til next week." He's going to fine me. He might not throw the book at me, but he's going to fine me.

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from jcarlin wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I may even have a squirrel "here". My editor is the pits.

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from dneaster3 wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

"Rather than being rewarded (for self-reporting), I was disciplined"

So, you want to be REWARDED for doing something WRONG... what planet are you from?!

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from Steward wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

You break the rules, you pay the consequences. I wouldn't have a problem with a minimum sentence for someone who self-reported. Now? Throw the book at him!

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

He wants a reward for reporting himself? What an idiot.

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from rock rat wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

It depends on what the standard is in Arizona. Here in Colorado many self reported violations go unpunished or with a very lenient fine.

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from King Carp wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I don't have any sort of law background, but how does the guy plead "not guilty" when he was the one who reported the crime? Seems like a sure way to increase the penalty to me.
I'm also amazed that he thinks he should be rewarded. I have heard of instances of forgiveness in these situations but it makes no sense to reward a criminal for committing a crime.

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Hi...

So, the Fish and Game Commission said he will keep his position and his license, eh?

So just pay the fine...after all...it was YOU who turned yourself in...!!

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from Outdoor Videography wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Ignorance is not innocence!

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from JohnR wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I think his use of the term "rewarded" is misleading and simply a poor choice of words on his part. What I think Mr. Husted expected was that mitigating circumstances toward his punishment would be considered evidenced by the fact that he did self report and he assumed the responsibility for the 13 year old who actually shot the prairie dog.
I understand where everyone here is coming from, but ideally it would be beneficial for people to self report so that the Fish and Wildlife personnel can have a more accurate count of harvested animals. I also realize that there are those dirt bags that would try to work the system too.
Unfortunately accidents happen and if there is always going to be a heavy handed response to self reporting, then one can forget any cooperation with many hunters.
Example: You take a shot at a crossing dove during dove season. It's the last one to fill your limit. Just as you shoot another one crosses with the one you're aiming at and you kill both. The limit is 12 but now you have 13. Sorry, but I am going to leave that bird in the field where it fell. I'm not self reporting and receiving a ticket for a bird I killed accidently.
Let's see, that ticket will cost me at least $140 for court costs assuming there is no fine. Then there is the "replacement" cost for the bird which is usually more expensive than a 15 pound turkey from the grocery store. Oh yeah and here in my state you will get unsupervised probation for a year and if the judge is in a bad mood you could lose your hunting privelege for a year. All this for for an honest accidental killing of a Mourning Dove and turning one self in. The possible result of the court case in my example is speculative based upon cases I have observed (as an LEO) in court.
The example about the accidental shooting of a crossing bird and it being one over the limit is true and witnessed by me. It was my hunting buddy that did it and it would have been really cool had he not been one bird from his limit.
Another hunting buddy took both his sons duck hunting when they were in their early teens. They had a real good day however when the shooting got fast and furious, one of his sons shot one Pintail over the limit. When they were checked by the US Fish and Wildlife, the duck was discovered in one of his son's bucket. My friend asked the Wildlife Officer if he could take responsibility for the duck and be issued the ticket because after all he was the responsible adult. The officer agreed and my friend went to federal court and pleaded guilty to a Class 3 misdemeanor and paid the fine. Roll the clock ahead a few years when my friend went back to college and applied to nursing school. He almost didn't get in because of that Class 3 misdemeanor for a duck. The above are some reasons why people (poachers excluded) don't self-report. Sorry for the longer post. I felt it better to explain my reasoning.
If someone deliberately breaks the game laws through carelessness and disregard for others then I agree, throw the book at them. If it was an honest-to-God accident then I'm not so sure.

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from Anthony Salgado wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Laws are laws, and just out of curiosity if he was a wildlife officer, shouldnt he be knowledgeable in what game is in season and when that particular season ends?!? If you break the law and you turn yourself in, do you expect to be praised and exonerated for being noble enough to admit you made a mistake? Maybe a little leniency in the fine or something but not a wash saying that my good deed should offset my bad deed. If we ran our courts that way, it would be okay to shoot someone if I took them to a hospital afterwards.

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from JohnR wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I think his use of the term "rewarded" is misleading and simply a poor choice of words on his part. What I think Mr. Husted expected was that mitigating circumstances toward his punishment would be considered evidenced by the fact that he did self report and he assumed the responsibility for the 13 year old who actually shot the prairie dog.
I understand where everyone here is coming from, but ideally it would be beneficial for people to self report so that the Fish and Wildlife personnel can have a more accurate count of harvested animals. I also realize that there are those dirt bags that would try to work the system too.
Unfortunately accidents happen and if there is always going to be a heavy handed response to self reporting, then one can forget any cooperation with many hunters.
Example: You take a shot at a crossing dove during dove season. It's the last one to fill your limit. Just as you shoot another one crosses with the one you're aiming at and you kill both. The limit is 12 but now you have 13. Sorry, but I am going to leave that bird in the field where it fell. I'm not self reporting and receiving a ticket for a bird I killed accidently.
Let's see, that ticket will cost me at least $140 for court costs assuming there is no fine. Then there is the "replacement" cost for the bird which is usually more expensive than a 15 pound turkey from the grocery store. Oh yeah and here in my state you will get unsupervised probation for a year and if the judge is in a bad mood you could lose your hunting privelege for a year. All this for for an honest accidental killing of a Mourning Dove and turning one self in. The possible result of the court case in my example is speculative based upon cases I have observed (as an LEO) in court.
The example about the accidental shooting of a crossing bird and it being one over the limit is true and witnessed by me. It was my hunting buddy that did it and it would have been really cool had he not been one bird from his limit.
Another hunting buddy took both his sons duck hunting when they were in their early teens. They had a real good day however when the shooting got fast and furious, one of his sons shot one Pintail over the limit. When they were checked by the US Fish and Wildlife, the duck was discovered in one of his son's bucket. My friend asked the Wildlife Officer if he could take responsibility for the duck and be issued the ticket because after all he was the responsible adult. The officer agreed and my friend went to federal court and pleaded guilty to a Class 3 misdemeanor and paid the fine. Roll the clock ahead a few years when my friend went back to college and applied to nursing school. He almost didn't get in because of that Class 3 misdemeanor for a duck. The above are some reasons why people (poachers excluded) don't self-report. Sorry for the longer post. I felt it better to explain my reasoning.
If someone deliberately breaks the game laws through carelessness and disregard for others then I agree, throw the book at them. If it was an honest-to-God accident then I'm not so sure.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I'm pretty sure if I grab a WCO and say something to the effect of "Hey, I got a squirrel hear, but I didn't realize the season was open til next week." He's going to fine me. He might not throw the book at me, but he's going to fine me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I may even have a squirrel "here". My editor is the pits.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dneaster3 wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

"Rather than being rewarded (for self-reporting), I was disciplined"

So, you want to be REWARDED for doing something WRONG... what planet are you from?!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

You break the rules, you pay the consequences. I wouldn't have a problem with a minimum sentence for someone who self-reported. Now? Throw the book at him!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

He wants a reward for reporting himself? What an idiot.

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from rock rat wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

It depends on what the standard is in Arizona. Here in Colorado many self reported violations go unpunished or with a very lenient fine.

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from King Carp wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

I don't have any sort of law background, but how does the guy plead "not guilty" when he was the one who reported the crime? Seems like a sure way to increase the penalty to me.
I'm also amazed that he thinks he should be rewarded. I have heard of instances of forgiveness in these situations but it makes no sense to reward a criminal for committing a crime.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Hi...

So, the Fish and Game Commission said he will keep his position and his license, eh?

So just pay the fine...after all...it was YOU who turned yourself in...!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Outdoor Videography wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Ignorance is not innocence!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Anthony Salgado wrote 1 year 35 weeks ago

Laws are laws, and just out of curiosity if he was a wildlife officer, shouldnt he be knowledgeable in what game is in season and when that particular season ends?!? If you break the law and you turn yourself in, do you expect to be praised and exonerated for being noble enough to admit you made a mistake? Maybe a little leniency in the fine or something but not a wash saying that my good deed should offset my bad deed. If we ran our courts that way, it would be okay to shoot someone if I took them to a hospital afterwards.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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