A Juneau man accused of multiple hunting violations in the area, including the illegal shooting of a black-colored wolf many Juneau residents believe was the one called "Romeo," pleaded guilty and was sentenced Wednesday morning in Juneau District Court as a crowded courtroom looked on.
Park Myers pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking big game by using a rim fire cartridge to take a wolf and unlawful possession of that wolf. The charges stemmed from the same Sept. 22, 2009, incident.
Myers also pleaded guilty to establishing a black bear station to hunt bear using bait or scent lures without an Alaska Department of Fish & Game permit, and two more counts of unlawful possession stemming from May 2009 and May 2010.
Judge Keith Levy sentenced Myers 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. Myers has additional restitution of $1,100 and must forfeit three rifles and surrender any interest in hides generated in this case. His hunting license is suspended for the duration of his probation.
Myers had no comment as he left the court building but stated later in the afternoon, "I am remorseful about what I did. I take the punishment seriously. I apologize to the community and hope everyone can learn from this and move on. I would especially like to thank my supporters."
District Attorney Doug Gardner stated that it was important to note the case, although very emotional to the public, was not about whether or not a black wolf was taken, but one of illegal hunting violations.
"I think it is important for hunters to understand this case is about being a sportsman," District Attorney Doug Gardner said after court. "Alaska may be the last frontier but it is not a lawless frontier. The laws are there to keep people safe and make hunting fair for everybody."
Prior to sentencing Gardner called Alaska Wildlife Trooper Aaron Frenzel as a witness. Frenzel testified to conducting a joint investigation with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Search warrants were served on Myers' house, Myers' hunting client Jeffrey Peacock's workplace and a local taxidermist. Peacock is currently facing charges related to the Sept. 2009 taking of the wolf.
Frenzel's investigation also included interviews with Myers and Peacock in which Myers admitted to the violations.
Frenzel stated the law for big game hunting in Alaska was by center fire only, except in two game units, due to the possible wounding of game with smaller caliber typical of rim fire cartridges.
Frenzel also displayed the black-colored wolf hide seized from a taxidermist that was to be mounted for Myers.
Gardner asked Frenzel to comment on a slide show of recovered images relevant to the wolf and bear obtained in search warrants. Images showed Peacock and Myers posing with the black-colored wolf after it had been taken and during the skinning process at the taxidermist. They also showed images of a Juneau Empire article entitled "Romeo, Where Art Thou?" from Peacock's cell phone.
Gardner asked and Frenzel confirmed that no DNA testing was done but people can look at the images and make their own decision.
Other images showed a black bear at a bait site.
Frenzel said surveillance of Peacock and Myers led to an unlawful bait site at Glacier Highway mile 26, near the Bridget Cover area. Myers and Peacock were observed bringing a bear out of the woods. Surveillance cameras revealed the two baiting the site.
Frenzel's testimony also revealed Myers and Peacock took a bear on the beach by the Shrine of St. Therese, an area including Peterson Creek and the waterline to Glacier Highway and a quarter mile inland that is closed to big-game hunting.
Frenzel also revealed photos confiscated that were taken the day before the wolf kill that showed a single black wolf, near Herbert River and the side trail to Windfall Lake, walking up to a vehicle and one of the same wolf in the Herbert River parking lot, again walking up to a vehicle's window.
Frenzel said the wolf was falsely sealed by Peacock because Myers did not want to take the blame for shooting Romeo.
Frenzel also testified that author Nick Jans received a request from Peacock to write "Romeo, Romeo, where art thou" as an inscription in Peacock's copy of Jans' book about Romeo, titled "Glacier Wolf."
Myers' attorney David Mallet cross-examined Frenzel by telephone, asking if Myers was forthcoming in his admissions, which Frenzel replied "yes." Frenzel told Mallet he was not sure why the wolf hide was marked gray but it was the same wolf as in all the images.
Public attendees to the trial gathered outside the courtroom to examine the black-colored wolf hide.
"That is definitely Romeo," said Friends of Romeo founder Harry Robinson. "No mistake. You can tell by this scar here. I don't think anybody is happy about the outcome. The profound loss of this animal to the community is overwhelming. Young kids cannot look at Romeo running in the wild again. I myself personally took elderly citizens out just to see him."
Mallet said in a sentencing memorandum to the court that the wolf's identity has never been confirmed. Frenzel said in court that, although DNA samples exist, they have not been tested.
Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@ juneauempire.com.