Juneau District Court Judge Keith Levy asked Park Myers III on Friday if he wished to make a statement before sentencing him on a probation violation stemming from big game hunting violations dating back to 2009.
Public defender Kevin Higgins whispered to Myers that he could stay seated — and Levy agreed — but Myers chose instead to face his accusers.
Afterward, Levy re-imposed and re-suspended all but 30 days to serve and extended Myers probation to two years.
Myers’ probation stems from pleading guilty to big game hunting violations, along with a co-defendant, Jeffrey Peacock, after both were arrested May 21, 2010 following a lengthy investigation by Alaska Wildlife Troopers, the U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for charges including bear baiting without a permit, three unlawful possession of game charges, hunting in a closed area, and taking big game using unlawful methods. Peacock had an additional charge of unsworn falsification. The charges stemmed from incidents in May 2009 and May 2010. All charges were class A misdemeanors. The two were given joint trial dates.
Myers was sentenced Nov. 3, 2010, to a total of 330 days in jail, all suspended; $12,500 in fines, $7,500 suspended, for a total of $5,000 due within two years, $1,100 in restitution, and hunting license revoked through three-years probation.
Peacock was sentenced Jan. 4, 2011, to three six-month jail terms, all suspended, a $2,000 fine, $6,000 restitution and three years on probation.
Myers pleaded guilty on June 2, 2011, to unemployment fraud.
Levy acknowledged that the case had emotional feelings on all sides. Levy ruled by statute on disposition on a probation violation, a crime of dishonesty, and not that the act of inadvertently shooting a wolf can change how he looks at the case, a relatively low level game violation.
“I have to find a legal standing,” Levy said.
Myers chose to address a standing room only courtroom after a series of affidavits had been read by citizens who believed he had shot a beloved black wolf they called Romeo. The citizens had sought legal standing in the case.
“The last year and a half we have gone through a lot,” Myers said. “What happened that day was not premeditated. I wish I could take it back. It doesn’t make it any less wrong but I don’t believe the wolf we killed was Romeo. He weighed 72-pounds.”
Levy had to silence the courtroom as someone laughed.
Another said they would be waiting when Myers got out.
Still another called defense attorney Higgins an insulting name.
“It was not a premeditated attack on anybody,” Myers said. “I served seven years in the military to fight for people to have the rights they do. I have nothing against people who want to do what they do, for or against hunting. I am sorry I can’t take back what happened.”
Earlier, citizens Nick Jans, Harry Robinson, and the statements of Joel Bennett were heard in court. They were quoted as being affected monetarily and emotionally by the shooting of the wolf that they believed was Romeo.
Others in the courtroom said that the real Romeo was shot, skinned, and taken from Alaska in a motor home by someone else.
During the hearing, Higgins called resident Thom Buzard, a self-described law and order conservative, to the stand. Buzard stated Myers should be pay the penalty adjudicated for the crime of which he was convicted.
“That’s the way we run our lives in this country,” Buzard said. “That is the way we live. We have a constitution and laws written from a constitution.”
Buzard said that while some things said in the courtroom about Myers may or may not be true, “It is a fact he shot a killer, a predator, an animal that kills other creatures, pets, and animals of opportunity in order to survive. The black wolf, or whatever we want to call it, is or was a predator and eventually it was going to die.” Buzard further stated that if Myers violated the law for shooting the animal with a caliber rifle that was too small, then he should be punished for that.
“Beyond that,” Buzard said. “We are wasting good time and resources. We have other criminal situations that warrant a lot more attention than shooting a wolf with a .22 caliber rifle.”
Outside the courtroom, members of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance were asked why they had not been present in any of the multiple hunting and fishing violations and sentencing that had come across the bench in Juneau court the past year.
“Members of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance try to attend as many of these proceedings as possible,” AWA president Tina Brown said. “When we hear about them we send someone. Even though both the state and the defending attorney kept saying the public thinks this is only about a wolf named Romeo, the AWA is concerned that two bears and a wolf were illegally taken.”