Gayle Patrick Skunkcap, Jr., Jessie Jay St. Goddard, and Woodrow Jay Wells Plead Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Helena, on March 4, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, GAYLE PATRICK SKUNKCAP, JR., age 42, JESSIE JAY ST. GODDARD, age 50, and WOODROW JAY WELLS, age 45, residents of Browning, pled guilty to violating the Lacey Act (illegal sale of tribal wildlife) and theft from a tribal government receiving federal funding. Sentencing has been set for June 24, 2013. They are currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carl E. Rostad and Ryan G. Weldon, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
All wildlife on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is owned by the Blackfeet Indian Tribe. In managing such wildlife, hunting is allowed. Hunting by non-members on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is a highly regulated activity. The 2010 and 2011 Blackfeet Regulations set forth the number of tags that may be given to non-members and the price of payment required for each tag. These tags are required, are limited in number, and are highly lucrative. There are only between five and ten hunting licenses for each big-game species availabe to non-tribal members each year, with each license costing between $1,500 and $12,000, depending on the animal.
SKUNKCAP, Jr., was the Director of the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department, and ST. GODDARD and WELLS were Tribal Councilmen on the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council. In 2010 and 2011, the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department received federal funding in excess of $220,000, each year.
Between 2010 and 2011, SKUNKCAP, ST. GODDARD, and WELLS held four big-game hunts for country musicians participating in an outdoors television show on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation without obtaining the limited and expensive hunting licenses for non-tribal members to shoot elk, moose, deer, and a black bear. They also used tribal funds and personnel to outfit and guide the musicians, television show hosts, and a fly fishing expert.
They each face possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Blackfeet Internal Affairs Office.