Culverwell appeals sentence
Rancher convicted of wildlife crimes Sept. 5
November 8, 2008
The defense for Rodney Culverwell filed an appeal Wednesday, challenging four felony and 11 misdemeanor convictions that resulted from his trial earlier this year.
Culverwell, a 41-year-old Moffat County rancher, was convicted in September of four counts of willful destruction of big game, a Class 5 felony; four counts of illegal possession of wildlife, a misdemeanor; three counts of hunting without a license, a misdemeanor; and four counts of hunting out of season, a misdemeanor.
The convictions relate to four elk Culverwell admitted to killing last winter on his ranch. During his trial, he maintained he shot three of the elk as “mercy killings,” and ran over the fourth with his tractor because it charged the vehicle.
Michael O’Hara, chief judge for the 14th Judicial District, sentenced Culverwell to 60 days in Moffat County Jail, two years of probation, 172 hours community service and $19,567.65 in total fines and fees.
Culverwell is scheduled to surrender to authorities by 6 p.m. Monday.
The notice of appeal requests a stay on all jail time and fines. O’Hara said during sentencing he would be inclined to grant such a measure if the defense appealed, but nothing contained in Culverwell’s case file showed that decision had been made as of Friday afternoon.
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The judge ruled Culverwell should not be sentenced on his 11 misdemeanor convictions because he only committed one illegal act in killing each animal. Court documents show the misdemeanor charges as being dismissed.
Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District, would not comment on the details of a plea agreement offered to Culverwell before his trial, when he faced 80 total charges, including 16 Class 5 felonies and 64 misdemeanors.
The original charges related to 16 elk that the Colorado Division of Wildlife reported finding dead on the defendant’s land.
Culverwell said he killed some of the other elk involved in the case because they were destroying fences and eating hay he needed to feed his livestock.
After the trial, Culverwell’s defense attorney, Pamela Mackey, said it was a testament to her client’s right to defend his property that the jury did not convict Culverwell in those instances.
Mackey declined to comment on why her client chose to appeal.
The Colorado Court of Appeals does not have to accept Culverwell’s appeal, but if it is accepted, the state Attorney General’s Office will take over prosecution.
The Attorney General’s staff could not find out before press time when the Court of Appeals would decide to take up the appeal or when the case might be heard.