Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A Texas man is sentenced in Kansas for what authorities call the largest poaching ring the state has ever seen. James Butler is going to prison for wildlife trafficking and other charges.
Prosecutors say he charged thousands of dollars for people to come to Kansas to hunt deer illegally at property he leased near Coldwater, KS. Dozens of trophy class deer were seized from Butler's property in Texas after the five year investigation. Many people, mostly from Texas, paid as much as $5,000 for guided tours at his operation called Camp Lone Star.
Butler walked out of the federal courthouse in Wichita sentenced to more than three years in prison Tuesday. His supporters packed the courtroom to show their support for a man they say may have made some mistakes, but has done much good for the conservation, hunting and wildlife community.
"As you go to a courthouse, you see the scales of justice on the outside," said Tim Condict. "What has happened to the scales of justice in this country? I'm embarrassed to be a citizen of my own country."
"Was there some abuse there? I'm sure there was," explained Kevin Grace, another of Butler's supporters. "But at the end of the day, this was almost an attack on hunting itself. As private citizens, we have to take into consideration what's going on here."
But the US Attorney for Kansas argued that Butler knew what he was doing and made a lot of money doing it. Barry Grissom downplayed Butlers nationally known Wounded Warrior project in which he takes combat wounded soldiers, many whom are amputees, on hunting trips free of charge.
"He only wanted to do the amount of good that would cause him to make money," Grissom said. "His Wounded Warrior project was nothing more than a lost leader. He wanted to profit illegally from this resource."
As his friends waited outside the courthouse, J.R. Wilson, an attorney himself, claimed the government wasted millions of dollars on the investigation.
"We believe that the prosecution bound itself to prosecute this meaningless case because too many people had their names and reputations on the fact that this was a much larger case than it really was."
Along with the prison sentence, US District Judge Wesley Brown ordered Butler to pay $25,000 in fines and another $25,000 in restitution to the state of Kansas.
Butler's brother Marlin is also charged in the case. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.