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By Tina M. Brown
The maximum penalties for violating laws pertaining to wildlife are lenient and do not accurately represent the degree of outrage the public feels when wildlife is illegally killed or maimed. Moreover, state and federal prosecutors often accept plea bargains in these cases, resulting in minimal penalties.
Three high profile court cases that seriously and directly affect Southeast Alaska's wildlife and all Alaskans are currently in process. One of these cases involves Kevin Carle, who is accused of ramming two humpback whales in Southeast waters. The other two cases involve Park Myers and Jeffrey Peacock, who are accused of unlawfully taking big game animals - two black bears and a wolf.
Carle allegedly went out of his way to ram a humpback whale with his 34-foot jet boat on two different occasions. He was successful both times; it is not known whether either whale survived. Carle was charged with a federal misdemeanor in violation of the Endangered Species Act for, according to prosecutors, "knowingly harassing, pursuing and harming whales." Carle's plea agreement calls for him to plead guilty in exchange for two years of probation and a $1,000 fine. The judge has not yet ruled on this plea bargain.
Myers and Peacock allegedly baited bears without a permit and illegally shot a wolf. The separate charges against these men are misdemeanors, each punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to one year in jail. In 2006, however, a case in which a Juneau resident who was charged with killing a black wolf resulted in just a one year probation and a $500 fine. It is possible Myers and Peacock will also agree to a plea bargain for the misdemeanor charges, thus receiving small fines and possibly probation for their crimes.
Furthermore, in a statement to a State of Alaska District Attorney and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent, Myers said that after Peacock shot a bear, Myers assisted Peacock in dragging the bear to their vehicle, according to court records. The bear's skin was subsequently transported to Peacock's residence. Transporting illegally taken game can be a violation of the federal Lacey Act; to date, however, neither Myers nor Peacock has been charged with a federal violation.
In summary, two humpback whales were allegedly struck by a 34-foot jet boat in our waters. Two black bears and one wolf were allegedly illegally taken in our town. All of the accused were adults who allegedly carried out their crimes with malice aforethought, showing no remorse until they were arrested, if then.
The animals involved have both financial and intrinsic value. Many tourists flock to Southeast Alaska to view them. Many residents live here because of them. The alleged actions by Carle, Myers, and Peacock neither can nor should be taken lightly.
Do not to wait until plea bargains are finalized before speaking out. Speak out now. Ask District Attorney Doug Gardner to prosecute Myers and Peacock to the fullest extent of the law. Ask Assistant United States Attorney Jack Schmidt to investigate Myers and Peacock for violating the Lacey Act. Ask Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis to reject Carle's plea bargain and to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.
State and federal prosecutors are public servants. Citizens have a duty to hold them accountable for their actions. The public prosecutors in these three cases should hear from you while your voices can still make a difference. Justice must not be sacrificed for expediency. Let it be known that those who commit egregious wildlife offenses in Southeast Alaska will not escape with a slap on the hand.
Brown is the president of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance's Southeast Chapter.