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Foggy weather delays wildlife trial

Posted: January 28, 2014 - 1:14am

Foggy weather has delayed a wildlife trial underway in federal court in Juneau after flights into the capital city were cancelled.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess appeared in court via videoconference Monday morning, saying he was stuck in Anchorage (and his luggage in Sitka) due to the flight cancellations. Likewise, three jurors from Southeast communities missed the proceedings for the same reason.

The trial will continue on Tuesday morning once everybody makes it back to Juneau, Burgess said.

The trial against a big game guide from Haines and three of his clients from Alberta, Canada, — all accused of violating the Lacey Act which prohibits the trafficking of wildlife — began last week with jury selection on Tuesday and the first day of trial on Wednesday. The trial was postponed on Thursday and Friday due to the judge’s travel schedule.

Prosecutors say guide John Katzeek and hunters Brian Hicken, Kenneth Cox and Tyler Antal violated the Lacey Act by illegally taking and falsely labeling mountain goat kills. The defense maintains the animals were not taken illegally and the false labelling of the kills was just a mix-up.

Katzeek, 64, is also facing an additional charge of violating the Lacey Act for allegedly illegally smuggling Dall sheep back to the U.S. from the Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary in the Yukon Territory of Canada, where he is allowed to hunt for subsistence as a member of the Kluane First Nations tribe.

The case against the four defendants was a result of a widespread joint U.S. and Canadian investigation dubbed “Operation Bruin” by law enforcement. Katzeek’s older brother Ronald L. Martin, also a guide in Haines, was also netted in the sweep, as have 17 other people on the Canadian side of the border.

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