A Hawaii resident accused of killing a black bear on the Juneau road system during the summer of 2009 with local charter boat operator and fishing guide Michael P. Duby pleaded guilty on Friday to a reduced charge of providing false information on a bear sealing certificate.
Juneau District Court Judge Thomas Nave accepted a plea deal requiring Bradley A. Deffenbaugh, 51, to pay a $500 fine and to forfeit the bear hide, skull and claws.
The reduced charge is a non-criminal, strict liability offense that cannot result in jail time, only a fine.
Deffenbaugh was originally charged with a class ‘A’ misdemeanor, which can carry up to one year in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, for knowingly providing false information on the certificate. The state would have to prove Deffenbaugh’s state of mind, whether he did it “knowingly,” in order to get that conviction. That state of mind requirement does not have to be proven for strict liability violations.
Prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office of Special Prosecutions alleged Deffenbaugh signed a sealing form that said the bear was taken south of Lynn Canal with the use of a boat on June 3. But a review of Duby’s journals found the bear was taken June 4 by vehicle as Duby and Deffenbaugh were trolling for bears to hunt off roads in Juneau.
When interviewed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents, Deffenbaugh admitted to signing the form, and stated he had used a vehicle to drive to the location of the bear kill site at the end of the Juneau road system, according to charging documents.
Deffenbaugh’s lawyer Julie Willoughby said her client had already forfeited the hide and bear parts, and that he did not read the certificate before signing it as it was filled out by someone else.
“He didn’t really read it, that was his mistake,” Willoughby said.
“He didn’t fill it out,” she reiterated in a later interview. “He signed a document that was false, he didn’t know it was false.”
It was said in court Duby had filled out the form.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Peterson told the judge the state was unable to prove the bear was killed illegally, and the agreement was an appropriate resolution.
The plea deal is also conditional, meaning if the state charges him with another crime related to the incident, Deffenbaugh reserves the right to withdraw his guilty plea.
Peterson said he did not anticipate filing any further charges, based on his conversations with federal agents.
Deffenbaugh is one of the defendants involving in the so-called “satellite cases,” as the judge and Peterson described it, that center around Duby, the owner and operator of FishHunter Charters in Juneau.
About nine other people have already been charged or convicted with poaching activities in connection to Duby, including his father, brothers, employees, friends and clients.
Only two of those cases remain unresolved — one involving his brother Jason Duby, and the other involving Blake Coombs, a friend and former deckhand.
Duby himself was sentenced in both state and federal court this week for breaking multiple wildlife laws from May 2007 to June 2009.
He pleaded guilty in state court to seven counts of hunting- and fishing-related violations in Alaska, and was sentenced to serve 280 days in jail, to pay a composite fine of $11,000 and $1,200 in restitution to the state of Alaska Fish and Game Fund for two black bears killed in 2008, and to forfeit a $30,000 bond paid for his boat, the Brody, as well as interest on a number of items.
He also pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits the sale of migratory birds, after he sold magpies on eBay. He was sentenced on Wednesday to five years of supervised probation, and the judge also revoked his fishing and hunting licenses for that time period, fined him $2,500 and ordered 250 hours of community work service.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.