Strong sentenced for trophy buck poaching
by Joy Ufford, Pinedale Roundup, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 26, 2016
PINEDALE, WYOMING – As his Oct. 25 trial approached, Big Piney teacher and coach Nathan Strong decided to change his "not guilty" plea for the wildlife violation of taking an antlered deer out of season, after attorneys reached an agreement.
Instead, the jury selection was replaced with Strong’s change-of-plea and sentencing hearing in Sublette County Circuit Court before Judge Curt Haws. The two-hour hearing was overshadowed by the display of the nontypical trophy buck Strong pleaded guilty to shooting, frozen in a taxidermist’s shoulder-mount pose.
Prosecuting attorney Carly Anderson and defense attorney Gaston Gosar had agreed on the sentence’s recommended range, leaving it to the judge, who was required to impose at least $5,000 in fines and five years’ loss of hunting privileges based on penalties for the misdemeanor to which Strong pleaded guilty.
Strong’s supporters, including Nancy Espenscheid, Betty Fear and Colin Barney, who said Strong shot the trophy buck on his Big Piney ranch and that he told Strong he thought it (and others on his property) were mule deer/ whitetail hybrids.
"I just don’t understand the penalties that facing Nate and his family … for this alleged violation," Barney told the judge."… I don’t see why we have to crucify this man and his family."
After hearing from Strong, his friends and both attorneys, Judge Haws passed the sentence of 10 days in jail, seven years’ suspension of Strong’s hunting privileges, a $10,000 fine, $4,000 wildlife restitution to the state of Wyoming and $40 in court costs.
The judge suspended $5,000 of Strong’s fine.
Although Judge Haws said he could have imposed a maximum of 365 days in jail, he was suspending 355 days in favor of one year of unsupervised probation; if Strong completes that successfully, "then (the suspended portion) goes away,"
The 10-day jail sentence will be cut in half if Strong performs 50 hours of community service by Jan. 15. Judge Haws allowed Strong to use a student program he is currently supervising as community service.
Gosar asked if Strong’s community service could wait until after basketball season.
"Let’s get it done," the judge said. "So I know if we’re looking at 10 days (in jail) or five."
If Strong completes the 50-hour community service requirement by Jan. 15, he will not have to serve the second five days and all jail time must be served by April 30.
"He still has a couple weeks before basketball starts," Anderson commented. "I just think that seems like a long time."