FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2001
TDD (202) 514-1888
DUNCAN, BRITISH COLUMBIA MAN SENTENCED TO 24 MONTHS
FOR SMUGGLING AND ILLEGALLY SELLING EAGLE PARTS
WASHINGTON D.C. -- A Duncan, British Columbia man has been sentenced to 24 months in prison following his October 26, 2001 conviction for four counts of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and a single count of wildlife smuggling, United States Attorney John McKay and Assistant Attorney General Thomas L. Sansonnetti of the Department of Justice announced today.
Leonard Fridall Terry Antoine, 47, last year was found guilty of smuggling, selling and possessing bald eagle parts by a federal jury in Seattle. In addition to 24 months imprisonment, Antoine was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, and to pay a total of $147,000 in restitution -- $3,000 per each of 49 bald eagles directly involved in the counts of conviction. Antoine was sentenced on January 11, 2002.
Antoine, a member of the Cowichan tribe, claimed that despite receiving payments, he was merely distributing eagle parts to Native Americans in the United States for use in religious ceremonies. That defense was specifically rejected by the jury. At sentencing, the Court noted the case had nothing to do with the defendant's right to exercise religion, but rather had to do with Antoine paying other people to kill eagles and making money from selling eagle parts. The Court further noted that the defendant's conduct, including his responsibility for the remains of another 124 eagles found at his residence, absolutely warranted the highest sentence possible under the Court's calculation of his sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines.
"It is absolutely right that this defendant serve time for such an outright violation of our nation's environmental laws," said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice's Environmental and Natural Resources Division. "I commend U.S. Attorney John McKay and his office and the Department's own Wildlife and Marine Resources Section who jointly tried the case with vigorous prosecution. The outcome will serve as a deterrent to others who would harm protected species."
According to court records, the charges stemmed from Antoine's activities in 1997 and 1998 in smuggling eagle parts from Duncan, British Columbia, Canada into the United States. According to trial testimony, Antoine obtained the eagles, numerous of which had been shot, from at least three individuals on Vancouver Island. Antoine admitted that he gave these individuals between $20 and $50 per eagle. He would then butcher the eagles and remove their wings, tails, feet and feathers. The testimony established that after preparing these items, Antoine would smuggle the parts into the United States where he would sell the feathers and parts to willing buyers. According to the testimony, a set of wing feathers would sell for at least $150, tail feathers for at least $250, and other feathers and bones for various amounts.
Court records also show that the case began with an investigation by the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, Lands and Parks (British Columbia Conservation Officer Service) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As part of that investigation, a search warrant was executed at Antoine's home in Duncan on January 26, 1999. That search revealed bird parts later determined to have come from the aforementioned 124 bald eagles and a golden eagle, among other protected birds. The evidence at trial showed that from this search, Canadian law enforcement officers obtained documents suggesting that Antoine had a self-storage locker in Fife, Washington, giving rise to the investigation in Western Washington by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The evidence further showed that Antoine's storage locker in Fife, Washington contained parts of a minimum of 29 additional bald eagles and another golden eagle. A substantial number of other bald eagles were shown to have been smuggled into the United States by Antoine in June 1998, and subsequently sold in Washington, Montana and Arizona.
On May 31, 2001, Antoine was arrested on these charges in Florida by agents of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Marshals Service and has been in custody since that time.
Eagle parts and feathers play an important role in the traditional religion of Native American people throughout Canada and the United States, including the Cowichan band of the Coast Salish of which Antoine is a member. Eagle parts and feathers may be legally possessed for traditional religious and cultural purposes by First Nations people within Canada, but may not be sold. The Conservation Officer Service has established a program for the distribution of salvaged eagles (i.e., birds found dead) to native people for traditional uses. Similarly, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has established a program where eagles are provided for Native American religious purposes by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service operated Eagle Repository, and are authorized to be possessed and transported by permit issued under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The evidence at trial established that Antoine imported into and sold and bartered eagle parts in the State of Washington and elsewhere – activities not permitted under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Antoine had not applied for, nor obtained, any federal permits.
The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office and the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. The case was the result of a cooperative investigative effort by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, Lands and Parks, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.