News and Press Releases

Defendants Face Misdemeanor Charges Punishable by up to One Year in Jail

October 4, 2007

Five members of the Makah Tribe were indicted today by a federal grand jury in Seattle, Washington for Conspiracy, Unlawful Taking of a Marine Mammal and Unauthorized Whaling. The five illegally killed a gray whale off the coast of Washington on September 8, 2007. The charges are all misdemeanors and are punishable by up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine. The five men have been summoned to Federal Court in Tacoma for arraignment on October 12, 2007 at 2:30 p.m.

“The charges brought today are the most serious available to the government in this case,” said United States Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. “We welcome the Makah Tribe’s statements that they plan to prosecute in tribal court as well. However, those proceedings simply cannot replace federal prosecution of this killing, that is clearly illegal under federal law.”

According to the indictment, FRANKIE GONZALES, WAYNE JOHNSON, ANDREW NOEL, THERON PARKER, and WILLIAM SECOR entered into a conspiracy to illegally hunt and kill a gray whale. The day before the hunt, September 7, 2007, ANDREW NOEL sought weapons and ammunition from the Makah Tribe, claiming he was going to use the weapons for practice. NOEL also got permission to borrow a 12-foot boat from the Tribe and obtained a large red buoy from a Makah tribal employee. On September 8, 2007, the five men set out from a location near Neah Bay in the 12-foot boat and a 19-foot boat registered to FRANKIE GONZALES.

Near Seal Rock off the northwest coast of Washington State, the men encountered a gray whale and the men struck it with at least four harpoons. They attached buoys to the whale to stop it from escaping, and then shot it at least 16 times with the high powered weapons ANDREW NOEL had obtained from the Makah Whaling Commission. The men were taken into custody by the U.S. Coast Guard. The fatally injured whale swam approximately nine miles then, some 12 hours after it was struck, it died and sank in about 700 feet of water. The buoys had been removed at the direction of the Makah tribal marine mammal biologist.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the NOAA Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jim Oesterle, who leads the U.S. Attorney’s Office Environmental Crimes Working Group.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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