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United States v. Clavette

Citation: 28 ELR 20636
(02/06/1998)

The court holds that a hunter convicted of killing a grizzly bear without a permit in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) § 9(a)(1)(G) was not entitled to a jury trial. The court first holds that the offense was a petty offense. Petty offenses may be tried without a jury. The test for determining whether a particular offense is petty is an objective one, focusing on the severity of the penalty authorized. Any crime punishable by a prison term of six months or less is presumed to be a petty offense. The maximum sentence allowed for violating ESA § 9(a)(1)(G) is six months in jail, a $ 25,000 fine, or both. This maximum sentence does not reflect a clear congressional determination that violation of a U.S. Department of the Interior regulation pertaining to endangered or threatened species is a serious offense. The court also holds that sufficient evidence existed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the hunter did not act in self-defense when he shot the bear. The hunter and his wife changed their story multiple times, and the hunter's descriptions of the event were inconsistent with the government's physical evidence.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Lori Harper, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
P.O. Box 8329, Missoula MT 59807
(406) 542-8851

Counsel for Defendant
Daniel Donovan, Ass't Federal Defender
Federal Defender's Office
P.O. Box 3547, Great Falls MT 59403
(406) 727-5328

Before Wright and Kleinfeld, JJ.