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United States v. Hughes

Citation: 10 ELR 20955
No. No. 79-1428, 626 F.2d 619/(9th Cir., 05/22/1980)

The court affirms a conviction for converting government property and violating the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act against a defendant who sold for slaughter horses that had been rounded up from the public lands and lent under the Adopt-a-Horse Program. Under the program, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, defendant adopted 109 wild horses and was advised that it was unlawful to sell or use the animals for commercial exploitation. Subsequently, defendant sold a number of the animals to a slaughterhouse for human consumption abroad. The court first concludes that the federal government acquired a property interest in the horses when it captured, loaned, and exercised continuing control and dominion over them. Furthermore, even though the horses were placed in private hands, they continued to receive protection as wild horses under the Act. The court rejects defendant's argument that he should have been prosecuted under the Act's penal provision rather than the general provision for converting government property, which imposes a more severe penalty and is based on knowing conversion. The court also rejects defendant's claims regarding improper jury instructions and insufficiency of evidence.

Counsel for Appellant
Mark E. Griffin, Ass't Federal Defender
Federal Defender Services, Inc.
430 SW Morrison St., Portland OR 97204
(503) 223-6306

Counsel for Appellee
Peter Robinson, Ass't U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 71, Portland OR 97207
(503) 221-2101

Before DUNIWAY and WALLACE, Cricuit Judges, and JAMESON,* District Judge.