By Thomas Clouse
In the case of one Spokane man, the bear parts do not make up the sum of a felony.
Appellate judges on Tuesday overturned the felony wildlife trafficking conviction of 52-year-old Jason M. Yon, after he paid $800 for four bear gallbladders in 2008 to undercover Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers.
Yon’s attorney, Richard Lee, successfully argued that his client should not have been convicted of a felony because state law sets a dollar figure of $250 per purchase of parts from big game animals. Yon bought two gallbladders in September and another two in October 2008 for $200 each.
“He is grateful” for the decision, Lee said. “I understand (wildlife enforcement officers) need to do their jobs, but I thought this was overkill.”
Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Mark Lindsey had a different view. He noted that the laws governing wildlife trafficking have different rules for different species.
“If you poach oysters and clams, the state law allows you to aggregate and take a total value even though each is a different animal. But the Legislature decided with big game, it should be a different offense,” he said.
The state argued that Yon should be judged on the two separate $400 purchases, which obviously fulfilled the $250 threshold. But Lee and Division III Court of Appeals Judge Laurel Siddoway, who wrote the opinion, did not agree, saying each gallbladder should be valued separately. More....