TWO MAKAH TRIBAL MEMBERS FOUND GUILTY OF VIOLATING MARINE MAMMAL PROTECTION ACT BY KILLING GRAY WHALE
Men Agree to Bench Trial – Judge Finds Them Guilty Based on Written Statement of Facts
Two members of the Makah Tribe were found guilty late yesterday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma of Conspiracy to Violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The two, ANDREW NOEL, 29, and WAYNE JOHNSON , 55, were part of the group of five who illegally participated in a whale hunt that resulted in the killing of a gray whale off the northwest coast of Washington on September 8, 2007. Each misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine. Magistrate Judge Kelley Arnold scheduled sentencing for June 20, 2008.
Frankie Gonzales, Theron Parker, and William Secor pleaded guilty March 27, 2008, admitting in their plea agreements that they participated in the September 8, 2007 hunt. Defendants ANDREW NOEL and WAYNE JOHNSON chose to waive a jury trial, and submit a series of agreed upon facts to the judge so he could render his verdict. The defendants presented no arguments or evidence other than the agreed facts. The following facts were agreed by both prosecutors and the defense. On September 7, 2007, ANDREW NOEL took possession of three high powered rifles maintained by the Makah Tribal Whaling Commission. Later the same day, ANDREW NOEL obtained use of a 12-foot boat from the harbor master of the Makah Marina. ANDREW NOEL subsequently took a large red buoy from the tribe’s inventory of whaling equipment.
On the morning of September 8, 2007, the defendants departed the Makah Marina with ANDREW NOEL and WAYNE JOHNSON in the 12-foot boat and Frankie Gonzales, Theron Parker, and William Secor in a second 19-foot boat. The defendants carried two tribal firearms, several whaling harpoons, and numerous large plastic buoys. Shortly after departing the marina, the defendants encountered a gray whale in the area of Seal Rock near Neah Bay. The defendants pursued the whale, striking it numerous times with harpoons. One or more of the harpoon strikes allowed the defendants to tether a rope to the whale to which some of the large plastic buoys were attached. The buoys were attached to impede the whale’s progress and prevent it from escaping. The defendants then used the .577 and .460 caliber rifles to shoot the whale, striking it numerous times.
The defendants were taken into custody by the U.S. Coast Guard shortly after shooting the whale. The whale died on the evening of September 8, 2007 and sank off of Tatoosh Island near Cape Flattery. Based on the stipulated facts, Magistrate Judge Arnold found the defendants guilty as charged.
Frankie Gonzales, Theron Parker, and William Secor are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelley Arnold on June 6, 2008, but that date could be adjusted so that all five defendants can be sentenced in one proceeding on June 20, 2008.
The case was 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, and Assistant United States Attorney Carl Blackstone.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.