... As park poacher holds on to trophies

  • This Yellowstone elk was shot after this photo was taken

    Neal and Mary Jane Mishler
  A professional bowhunter who admitted poaching protected elk in Yellowstone National Park for nine years may get to keep his spoils. Federal prosecutors say they will not press Donald E. Lewis to hand over his illegal animal trophies to the government, as mandated by a plea bargain Lewis and his hunting partner, Arthur Sims, agreed to in August 1993 (HCN, 6/9/93). Poachers, when caught, are typically ordered to surrender their mounts as part of their sentence. But forcing Lewis to relinquish his may violate his constitutional right against self-incrimination, says Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Crofts, the Wyoming prosecutor who handled Lewis' case. The constitutional right is at issue because the trophies may offer evidence of more poaching offenses than Lewis was charged with. In the plea bargain, the federal government agreed not to charge Lewis with any crimes beyond the three misdemeanor counts of poaching that he had already agreed to, as long as he and Sims answered questions in a secret session with federal agents. Lewis and Sims answered questions, but the private talks were disclosed by reporters who had obtained documents through the federal Freedom of Information Act, Crofts told the Billings Gazette. "I don't know whether we can expect good faith on their part," he said.