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Crown breaks down fines in wildlife trafficking case

Judge Jerry Legrandeur got the detail he needed Thursday on the fines proposed for two Hutterite men guilty of illegally trafficking in bald and golden eagles and other wildlife.
Crown prosecutor Lisa Weich gave the judge a breakdown on the proposed fines for Nathan Tschetter and William Tschetter, along with 13 previous cases she studied.
“I will be taking time to look at all the cases,” Judge Legrandeur said.
The judge will give his decision Wednesday, June 6 in Fort Macleod provincial court.
William Tschetter of the Riverside Hutterian Brethren Colony pleaded guilty Feb. 29 to seven charges of unlawful trafficking and one charge of illegal storage of a firearm.
Nathan Tschetter, also of the Riverside colony, pleaded guilty to three charges of unlawfully trafficking wildlife.
Weich and defence lawyer Michael Pollard made a joint submission of fines totalling $56,000 for William Tschetter, and $21,000 for Nathan Tschetter.
Judge Legrandeur on Feb. 29 postponed sentencing so he could review case law, and on Thursday asked the Crown and defence to explain how they came to agreement on the recommended fines.
“I would not be prepared to simply allocate $7,000 to each matter,” Judge Legrandeur said.
The judge said each fine has to deal with the nature of the particular animal.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife began an undercover operation after receiving a complaint in February 2010 of someone advertising raptor talons and mule and whitetail deer antlers on eBay.
The undercover operation led to charges against William Tschetter and Nathan Tschetter.
A third man, Norbert Black Water of the Blood Reserve, was also charged. His case goes to trial in June.
Judge Legrandeur on Thursday asked the lawyers to detail what fines they were recommending for the sale of eagle and deer parts.
“The two are not the same and I will not sentence them the same,” Judge Legrandeur said.
William Tschetter’s proposed fines break down to $1,000 per eagle, $1,500 per deer and moose and $1,000 for the firearms charge for a total of $56,000.
Nathan Tschetter’s fines break down to $3,500 per eagle and $2,500 per deer for a total of $21,000.
Weich said the difference in fines for each man on the individual items was based on the global impact of the fines each man would receive.
Nathan Tschetter would pay a higher amount on each item because his total fine will be lower than William Tschetter’s fine.
Weich reached those amounts based on case law she reviewed and fines assessed in other cases.
“The fines have been increasing and increasing over time because unlawfully trafficking in wildlife has not stopped,” Weich said.
Judge Legrandeur asked the defence lawyer about his agreement with the joint sentencing recommendation.
“We arrived at that independently,” Pollard said of the fine amounts. “I think that’s even more persuasive.”
Weich offered to have an expert from Alberta Fish and Wildlife testify on why eagles are protected, but Judge Legrandeur said he didn’t need convincing.
“I accept that they need to be protected, that they are at risk,” Judge Legrandeur said.
Judge Legrandeur also said he understands the need for laws prohibiting illegal trafficking in all wildlife.
“No matter how many we have now, if we allow them to be taken and it isn’t dealt with on a regular basis, we won’t have them,” the judge said.

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