Judge puts official end to botched raptor case
By Emma Breysse, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
February 14, 2013
The permit violation case against a Wilson raptor owner has been dropped by the state.
Teton County prosecutor Steve Weichman asked 9th Circuit Judge James Radda to dismiss the charges against Jason Jones on Tuesday morning after he said he realized his office violated Jones’ due process rights.
Radda signed an order late Tuesday that threw out the charges.
Jones, the program director at Teton Raptor Center, did not get a key piece of evidence in his case because the Wyoming Game and Fish Department did not give it to prosecutors, according to Weichman’s motion to dismiss the case.
The case, brought to prosecutors by Game Warden Bill Long, alleged that Jones owned 17 raptors when his state permit allowed him to own only eight.
Jones claimed throughout the case, which is nearly two years old, that Long told him the discrepancy was the result of a clerical error and that he could continue to operate as though 17 birds were allowed.
The piece of evidence leading to the dismissal was an email in which Permit Officer Carol Havlik wrote that the number “eight” on Jones’ permit was a mistake.
“Looks like part of the problem is my mistake,” the email reads. “I didn’t put the correct number of birds on the permit for 2010.”
Since the email supported Jones’ defense, Weichman had to give it to him. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that failing to give an accused person evidence that supports his case is a violation of 14th Amendment rights.
Weichman never knew the email existed until Jones’ lawyer gave it to him in recent weeks, he said.
“In light of the new evidence tending to prove the Defendant’s assertion of clean hands, dismissal of this case is in the interest of justice,” Weichman wrote in the motion to dismiss.
Game and Fish agreed to forgo charging Jones for documents he sought through records requests after Weichman brought the violation to the agency’s attention, according to the motion.