By Michael Pearce
When he walked from U.S. District Court on Monday, federal game warden John Brooks ended maybe the most time-consuming case of his 17 years in wildlife law enforcement, and one of the most intensive cooperative operations involving his U.S. Fish and Wild Service agents and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Toursim game wardens.
Texas outfitter James Butler’s jail sentence had been reduced from 41 months to 10 months for his role in possibly the biggest trophy deer poaching case in U.S. history. His brother, Marlin, had his jail sentence lowered from 27 to eight months. The Butlers had some other penalties reduced, too, thanks to winning an appeal from their initial sentencing in 2011.
Brooks found plenty of good at the end of the day.
“Jail time is not often assigned in wildlife crimes,” said Brooks, lead agent in what was dubbed Operation Cimarron, “and these guys are going to jail.”
If any poachers were to get jail time, Brooks is not surprised it was the Butlers.
“They left no stone unturned when it came to violating deer hunting regs,” Brooks said. “They had people hunting without permits, exceeding bag limits, hunting the wrong units, shooting deer with illegal weapons for the season, they trespassed, used spotlights, shot deer from roads, just cut the heads off and left the meat to rot. I don’t know what (illegal activity) they didn’t do.”
The Butlers and more than 25 of their clients were sentenced for their actions.
Brooks said law enforcement officials first learned Camp Lone Star, in Comanche County, wasn’t always following the rules when state game wardens issued several citations as early as 2003. More....