Court overturns penalties in Butler brothers poaching case

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has overturned penalties leveled against Texas brothers, James and Marlin Butler.

The Butlers operated Camp Lone Star in Comanche County, the scene of what may have been the largest trophy deer poaching operation in U.S. history.

Federal and state wildlife officials dubbed their efforts “Operation Cimarron” and confiscated about 120 illegally-taken deer. Charges were leveled on about 30 men from Texas and Louisiana that illegally hunted with the Butlers. Most have entered guilty fees for a variety of poaching crimes, including illegally transporting illegally taken wildlife over state lines.

For his part, James Butler , Camp Lone Star owner, was fined $50,000 in fines and restitution and sentenced to 41 months in jail. Marlin Butler, a guide, was fined $20,000 in fines and restitution and 27 months in jail.

The 10th Circuit Court took issue with how the U.S. District Court in Wichita had placed a financial value of $3,500 for each deer of which the Butlers faced charges. U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown had established the value based on prices paid for guided hunts by Camp Lone Star clients.

The case has been sent back to U.S. District Court for re-evaluation and resentencing.

Since Brown has died since the sentencing, a new judge will probably be appointed to the case that will see prosecutors trying to strengthen their case. Brown was 104 years old at the time of the sentencing and his death. Prior to then, he said he’d never had a case win an appeal.

State and federal wildlife officials said appointing a new judge increases the chances the Butlers could face much lighter fines. Also, assigning a lesser value per deer could also lead to lower fines and restitution payments.