Nov 25, 2015

Illegal outfitting nets man more than $5,000 in penalties

A former North Dakota outfitter will pay more than $5,000 and lose some hunting privileges after pleading “guilty as can be” to guiding hunters in the Cody area without a license.

An apparently sarcastic Russell L. Stockie, 51, entered that plea and accepted the punishment at a Nov. 16 hearing in Park County Circuit Court.

Russell Stockie, after his June arrest
Prosecutors said Stockie, who did not have an outfitting license, charged five figures to take people on elk hunts; Stockie contended he’d never wanted to be paid for his help and that the two people he admitted to guiding had insisted on paying him thousands of dollars.

Either way, Wyoming law bars people from helping hunters take a big or trophy game animal “for hire or renumeration” unless they get a state license.

As a part of a plea deal approved by Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters, Stockie was ordered to pay $5,080 in fines and fees on the two misdemeanor counts of acting as an outfitter without a Wyoming outfitter’s license. The former Wapiti resident also was barred from hunting any big game animals in Wyoming until June 2018; the rest of his privileges remain intact.

“I’m assuming there won’t be any hunting, guiding, is that correct?” Waters asked.

“Not without a proper license, your honor,” said Stockie's defense attorney, Michael Messenger of Messenger and Overfield in Thermopolis.

Stockie said last week that he “never realized I was breaking a law” by keeping the money he received for helping the two elk hunters last year.

Stockie testified that a Kemmerer hunter he assisted in either October or November of 2014 covertly left $2,000 on his counter after the hunt. The was despite the fact that, “I told him 10 times I didn’t want any money and didn’t expect any,” Stockie said.

He said it was a similar situation in December 2014, when he helped a long-time friend from North Dakota harvest a bull elk and “he left some cash on the table.”

He testified he hadn’t asked for money and “matter of fact, I told him (the friend) 10 times not to leave any.”

Stockie’s account of just happening to get paid for his help stands in contrast to what other people told the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

In May, Stockie’s landlord told the Game and Fish that Stockie had guided several hunters over a span of about three years.

Stockie’s former boss at a Cody construction company similarly said Stockie had been guiding out-of-state hunters for money for years. For example, Stockie borrowed $5,000 from his then-boss in the summer of 2014 and pledged to repay it “after he received payment from the hunters he was guiding” later in the year, North Cody Game Warden Travis Crane wrote of the boss’ account in an affidavit used to support the charges.

The former boss told Game and Fish that Stockie paid back the $5,000, in cash, on Dec. 3, 2014. The boss recalled Stockie saying that the money had come from his friend from North Dakota and another man, who’d paid him $10,000 in $100 bills.

Stockie testified last week that he didn’t remember how much his friend had paid him; he did not mention the second man.

As part of the deal reached with the Park County Attorney’s Office, a third count of illegal outfitting (relating to a Colorado hunter Stockie allegedly guided in September or October 2014) was dismissed. The prosecution also agreed not to pursue any other charges from the investigation.
Stockie indicated he was grudgingly accepting the deal and would have preferred to plead his case to a jury.

“If I could have a jury trial, I’d be there right now,” said Stockie, who participated in the hearing by phone.

Because illegal outfitting charges don’t carry the possibility of any jail time, he was only entitled to a bench trial, before a judge.

“If I could have a jury trial, I’d be there right now,” Stockie said by phone.

Although jail couldn’t be imposed as a punishment, Stockie did serve three days in jail for the offenses. That’s because the county attorney’s office had him arrested on the allegations in June, apparently out of concern he might leave the area. Stockie would have stayed in jail longer, but he was able to post a $10,000 cash bond shortly after his initial court appearance.

Part of the reason Stockie’s bond was set so high was because this was not his first Game and Fish-related offense. Stockie ended up with a federal felony conviction in 2002 after officials learned his outfitting business in North Dakota was letting clients take more pheasants than allowed, among other violations. He lost worldwide hunting, guiding and outfitting licenses for three years, the Minot Daily News reported at the time.

To become an outfitter in Wyoming, you must pay a $1,600 application fee and $600 a year, provide proof of insurance and pass a state quiz and inspection, among other requirements.


Post a Comment

Copyright © Cody News Company | Powered by Blogger

Design by Anders Noren | Blogger Theme by