Joseph Cree Medicine, Jr. Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on April 28, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Keith Strong, JOSEPH CREE MEDICINE, JR., a 26-year-old resident of Browning, pled guilty to failure to report the taking of a threatened species and illegal possession of parts of a threatened species. Sentencing has been set for May 12, 2011. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura B. Weiss, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On October 19, 2009, a Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife biologist was notified that there was a dead grizzly bear along the Two Medicine River on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The biologist and two other officials responded. Upon arrival, they found a dead grizzly bear with the claws removed from both front paws. There were several holes in the bear and a rifle casing was found approximately five feet from the carcass. The grizzly bear carcass was transported to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lab for a necropsy examination. The examiner determined the bear likely died from hemorrhage and destruction of the lungs caused by multiple gunshot wounds.
On September 13, 2010, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent (the agent) was notified by the Blackfeet Tribe Fish and Wildlife Department (BTFWD) that an individual called saying she knew who killed the grizzly bear. The caller disclosed that her daughter's boyfriend killed the bear and gave her a claw. The agent interviewed her the following day. She said the bear was killed by JOSEPH CREE MEDICINE, her daughter's boyfriend. She disclosed that CREE MEDICINE had given her one of the claws but that she buried it and could not find it again. When asked how she knew CREE MEDICINE killed the grizzly, she responded that CREE MEDICINE told her he killed it.
On September 15, 2010, the agent interviewed the defendant, JOSEPH CREE MEDICINE, JR. CREE MEDICINE initially denied knowledge of the killing, but admitted later in the interview to killing the bear, which he knew was a grizzly at the time he shot it. CREE MEDICINE stated he was hunting with his cousin when he (CREE MEDICINE) started walking alone near brush and had a weird feeling. About 20 yards away, a grizzly bear started walking toward him out of the brush. CREE MEDICINE said he knew it was a grizzly by its hump and largeness. CREE MEDICINE said he was afraid and shot at it with his .270 rifle. The shot grazed the bear and it continued walking toward him. CREE MEDICINE shot again and the bullet hit the grizzly. The grizzly spun around and bit the wound. CREE MEDICINE fired a third round. He then walked to the bear, which was down, and shot a fourth round, killing it. CREE MEDICINE said he cut off the grizzly bear's front claws. CREE MEDICINE walked back to the house, told his cousin about the grizzly, and they left the area. CREE MEDICINE said he did not report it because he knew it was wrong and was afraid.
When asked what he did with the claws, CREE MEDICINE said he gave one to his girlfriend's mother and the rest to his mother. At the conclusion of the interview, the agent asked for the claws. CREE MEDICINE went to a back room and returned with five claws. The agent asked where the other four were. CREE MEDICINE said he lost them.
CREE MEDICINE'S cousin was also interviewed. He disclosed that he was deer hunting with CREE MEDICINE last year near Two Medicine River. The cousin recalled that he was sitting on a point while CREE MEDICINE went walking. After a period of time CREE MEDICINE returned and told him he killed a grizzly. The cousin stated he did not hear gunshots but that he could see the dead grizzly about 300 yards away. The cousin saw CREE MEDICINE with the claws and admitted that he did not report to BTFWD because he did not want to get CREE MEDICINE in trouble.
CREE MEDICINE, JR. faces possible penalties of six months in prison and a $25,000 fine.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.