Trespassing case against Department of Natural Resources chief Mike King dismissed

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— Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director Mike King's trial for trespassing in Routt County Court lasted just minutes Wednesday afternoon, but it might not be entirely a dead issue.

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Mike King

King was issued a citation in September 2013 for unlawfully entering private land in south Routt County to hunt, but on Wednesday, the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the case 30 minutes before the trial was supposed to begin because it could not prove that King knowingly entered private property to hunt.

Routt County Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Karzen said Wednesday that there was some uncertainty as to whether the violation in question was a strict liability offense, which doesn’t require someone to be aware of the law they’re breaking to be held liable (for example, someone breaking the speed limit doesn’t have to know what the speed limit is to be held liable).

If the violation isn’t a strict liability offense, the district attorney’s office would have been required to prove that King knew he was hunting on land that he did not have permission to access.

The motion states that King was a guest on a piece of property owned by Barb and Alfie Fisher south of Toponas when he crossed into an adjoining parcel owned by Carl and Diane Luppens. According to the motion, there has been “bad blood” between the two families for years before the incident involving King.

King had permission to hunt on the Fishers’ land and has said he thought he was on that land. The fencing between the Fisher and Luppens properties has multiple openings and gates, according to the motion, and the signage is potentially misleading, with old signs not being removed or being on the wrong side of the property line.

“Imposing criminal liability on an ‘innocent’ or ‘good faith’ trespasser under such circumstances is not dissimilar to prosecuting a person traveling below the posted speed limit for speeding because the speed limit had changed but the signs were not replaced,” the motion states.

Routt County Judge James Garrecht accepted the motion to dismiss but said that dismissal doesn’t preclude civil litigation that could arise from the offense.

King was present Wednesday but did not speak other than to say he had not retained counsel.

Carl Luppens asked to address the court and said he was “astounded” by the motion to dismiss.

It is well established, Luppens said, that hunters have an obligation to know where they are. The dismissal would upset established precedent and allow hunters to trespass with impunity, he said, creating “bedlam” in the woods.

Judge Garrecht said he didn’t think this case was necessarily setting precedent for future trespassing cases.

It’s the district attorney’s office’s decision, he said, whether or not to pursue the charges, adding that a motion can be filed to urge the office to pursue the case.

Luppens, sitting in the front of the courtroom, nodded and jotted a note down when the motion was mentioned.

After the court was dismissed, Luppens said he would look into the ability to petition the district attorney’s office to pursue the case.

“It’s essential,” Luppens said. “This sets a horrible precedent.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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Comments

bill schurman 7 months ago

Mr. Luppens take your ball and just go home. It is not that big a deal.

1

Scott Wedel 7 months ago

The precedent is that unclear signs and fencing is grounds for getting a trespassing charge dismissed. The judge is basically saying fix your fencing and improve your signage.if you want to pursue trespassers in court.

1

Bernard Gagne Jr 7 months ago

I strongly disagree for a couple reasons: First - DA Brett Barkey has mad it clear he is enforcing ALL crimes to their fullest extent, and has taken a posture of zero tolerance with crimes. He's made it clear he will go to trial to prosecute said crimes. That being said - he has basically "found a reason" to no pursue this case, which goes completely against his stated mission. The fact that the accused is a State Official makes the suspicion greater in my mind that Executive Privilege is being invoked in this case. Honestly - is this NOT suspicious? Mr. Barkey???

Second: This "judgement" goes absolutely AGAINST every prior precedent with hunting and trespassing. I was taught over 30 years ago in Hunter Education there is NO EXCUSE for trespassing in ANY case. That mantra has been repeated regularly by the DOW, in every one of their publications, in press releases and in all sorts of media. I know personally of a case VERY SIMILAR to this case, my friend was told by the judge paraphrase - That's just too bad. You should know exactly where you are at all times, POSTED OR NOT. And the friend received a hefty fine.

The fact that the suspect in this case is a DOW Executive Director, and the case dismissed wreaks of special treatment. I, for one, am calling BULLSHIT on our DA Brett Barkey. Thank you!

3

Angie Robinson 7 months ago

Every educated hunter knows it is 100% the responsibility of the hunter or hiker to know where you are. The land owners are not obligated to post any signage, nor to fence your property to identify private land either. Fences and signage should have absolutely nothing to do with the trespassing charges, what should matter is proof the individual was on the private property. I agree that if landowners want to avoid accidental trespassers, put up fences and better signage.

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Eric Meyer 7 months ago

Scott, Any idea the percentage of fences not cunstructed on or VERY near a property line? The first thing that should come to mind when you see a fence is potential property line. An opening, hole, gate or missing wire does not give you the okay to go right in. You don't know, you don't go. You have got to be kidding me. Anyone who respects private property rights should be all over this one.

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Bernard Gagne Jr 7 months ago

I'm with Eric on this, where is the outrage? Further, why the obvious "double standard" from the DA's office?

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Mark Ruckman 7 months ago

One thing I'm glad for at this moment is that I never had a job that required me to be in the public eye where every decision I made was open to public opinion if I did my job right or wrong.

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Scott Wedel 7 months ago

I am just saying what is implied by the judge's decision.

From the comments above, it would seem that fence location and bad signage is not a valid excuse for trespassing. Thus, the DA should be appealing the judge's decision instead of letting the case drop.

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jerry carlton 7 months ago

Oz I disagree. Waste of taxpayers money like you say chasing stoners is. Vote the jude out next election. I always vote against incumbent judges. Let some other shyster feed at the public trough.

1

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