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Two Who Took Most Active Role, Leading Hunt, Sentenced to Jail Time

June 30, 2008

Two members of the Makah Tribe, ANDREW NOEL, 29, and WAYNE JOHNSON, 55, were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, jail time, a year of supervised release and community service for Conspiracy to Violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NOEL and JOHNSON were immediately taken into custody to begin serving their prison time. Three other men, FRANKIE GONZALES, THERON PARKER, and WILLIAM SECOR, each were sentenced to two years of probation and community service. As a condition of their probation and supervised release, Magistrate Judge Kelley Arnold ordered that they are not allowed to participate in any whale hunt even if the tribe obtains a federal permit. Judge Arnold said, “They’ve had their whale hunt. There’ll be no participation by them even if authorized.”

The men 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. NOEL and JOHNSON were the leaders of the group and were believed to have fired most of the shots at the whale. They were convicted following a bench trial April 7, 2008. The other three defendants chose to enter guilty pleas March 27, 2008.

The individual sentences are as follows:
WAYNE JOHNSON, 5 months in prison, one year of supervised release, 175 hours of community service.
ANDREW NOEL, three months in prison, one year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service.
FRANKIE GONZALES and WILLIAM SECOR, two years of probation, and 100 hours of community service.
THERON PARKER, two years of probation and 150 hours of community service.

At sentencing Magistrate Judge Kelley Arnold said the illegal hunt had jeopardized the Makah Tribe’s lawful effort to obtain a permit. “The divisiveness caused by the hunt has wounded the tribe.” Judge Arnold said the men had entered into a “conspiracy of silence to protect one another.” Speaking of WAYNE JOHNSON, Judge Arnold said, “ I don’t believe there is one ounce of remorse on Mr. Johnson’s part and I believe he will do this again unless deterred by this court.”

In April 2008, NOEL and JOHNSON submitted 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 whale died on the evening of September 8, 2007 and sank off of Tatoosh Island near Cape Flattery.

In asking for the prison term for the leaders of the group, Assistant United States Attorney Jim Oesterle pointed out the men’s knowing intent to violate the law. “This was not an ordinary poaching incident in which fish or wildlife were taken out of season or harvested from restricted areas. Rather, this was a carefully planned effort deliberately calculated to violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act moratorium on taking a grey whale without authorization,” Mr. Oesterle wrote in his sentencing memorandum.

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.

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