Most of November was spent at the midwest headquarters of ALO, so legal news was a little light. The Jeff King sentencing was set in early December, and thus will be added to the November news to fill the void. The Federal Government came after King with everything it had. The US attorney asked for a maximum sentence which was a $5,000 fine, six months in jail, several thousand in restitution and litigation costs, and a prohibition on hunting and visiting the park. In response, ALO asked for a fine. Readers will recall that the verdict was split, and it was suggested that the government was probably happy with the verdict. This time Uncle Sam was not smiling. King got a $4,000 fine and $750 restitution, plus $10 for some kind of court costs. The Judge rejected most of the government’s sentencing arguments.
Some impressions from the trial will last for a while. First, the government may have budgetary problems overall, but no lack of funds when it comes to enforcing Park Service matters. Park rangers spent an incredible amount of time on this case, before, during, and after the trial. They sent the moose meat out for a DNA test even though King admitted the moose was his, then they flew an expert up from California to testify about the DNA test (he was not used at trial). Numerous helicopter flights were made to the hunting area. Several park service employees attended the trial, but only one testified. In fact, in over 200 trials, this was the first where the supervisor of the investigating officer attended every minute of the trial. That supervisor, Chief Ranger Armington, was probably the main reason this case was prosecuted so vigorously. He displayed quite a range of emotion during the trial. For example, when a key point was made at trial by the investigating officer, Armington winked at King. When testimony revealed a park employee had called his old friend King on the eve of trial, Armington dashed from the courtroom and confronted the employee in the hallway and dragged him into a private area to have a little chat. In short, Armington was thoroughly into this case, a petty misdemeanor, suggesting he had nothing better to do with his time than sit and watch. The investigating officer noted at trial that the offense could have been charged as a bail forfeiture type offense, but that was a call for Armington to make. There was also testimony about the fact that Iditarod champion King was the defendant had no bearing on the case. Sure it didn’t. That’s almost as believable as the Park Service claiming it was a coincidence that the boundary where King hunted was heavily marked two days after the trial ended. Had the Park spent a fraction of the time and money they spend busting hunters marking the boundary instead, there would be very few illegal hunting cases. But take a guess which job is more fun. Denali Park is still one of earth’s finest places. Flying the back side of the Park on a beautiful day to investigate this case confirmed that fact. It is easy to understand though why some of the Park’s neighbors are less than thrilled by the way it is operated.
Matt settled a minor fender bender in Bethel for $25,000 and one in Dillingham for $7500, but most of our personal injury cases are in slow mode right now. One of the reasons undoubtedly is the economy. ALO has several cases where AIG is the defending insurance company. One can imagine they are playing close to the vest for a while until their economic picture is more clear. Other companies are likely in a similar situation.
Dog training is taking a major chunk of time at the Dog Farm this time of year. Two teams are being trained for the Bogus Creek 150. Myron will drive one team, and kennel helper Casie Stockdale will drive the other. Casie is also helping with the Kuskokwim 300 and in that job she has helped put the race back on solid financial footing.
In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, it seems appropriate to follow up last year’s picture of Gary Baldwin’s potato crop. Long time readers will remember that the entire 2007 crop fit in one hand. It appears that Gary has become a better gardener along with his promotion to local school superintendant. This year’s crop fills more than his hand.