Brothers Charged with Guiding Illegal Deer Hunts in Southwestern Kansas
WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Wichita, Kan., returned a 23-count felony indictment charging two brothers with conspiracy and wildlife trafficking stemming from the illegal sale of guided deer hunts, the Justice Department announced.
The indictment charges James Bobby Butler Jr., 41, with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, 18 substantive violations of the Lacey Act, and three counts of obstruction of justice. His brother, Marlin Jackson Butler, 35, is charged with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and twelve substantive violations of the Lacey Act. Both men are from Martinsville, Texas.
The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell in interstate commerce any wildlife taken or possessed in violation of state law or regulation.
The indictment alleges that from 2005 to 2008, James and Marlin Butler conspired together to knowingly transport and sell in interstate commerce deer that had been hunted in violation of Kansas state law. In particular, the brothers are alleged to have operated a guiding service and hunting camp in Comanche County, Kan., at which they sold guiding services to out-of-state hunters for the purpose of illegally hunting and killing white-tailed deer and mule deer.
According to the indictment, hunters guided by the Butler brothers killed deer in excess of annual bag limits, hunted deer without permits or using permits for the wrong deer management unit, killed deer using illegal equipment, and hunted using prohibited methods such as spotlighting. In addition to selling their guiding services, the brothers are further alleged to have arranged for transport of the deer, or parts of the deer, particularly the antlers, from Kansas to Texas.
The indictment alleges that hunters paid approximately $2,500-$3,500 to hunt using archery equipment, and approximately $5,000 to hunt with a rifle.
The indictment further alleges that James Butler instructed others to destroy or conceal evidence and to lie to investigators, and that he himself lied to investigators during the investigation.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The maximum penalty for a felony violation of the Lacey Act includes up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for the obstruction charges includes up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.