Alleged poacher pleads not guilty |

Alleged poacher pleads not guilty

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A hunter accused by state wildlife officers of poaching a trophy elk last fall pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Pitkin County Court.

A jury trial for Marc McKinney of El Jebel was set for May 14 by Judge Erin Fernandez Ely.

McKinney’s attorney, Arnie Mordkin, said before the court appearance that negotiations with the district attorney’s office weren’t successful. In court, Mordkin referred to the case as “a little more peculiar than usual.”

McKinney was charged by the Colorado Division of Wildlife for allegedly using salt and minerals to attract a cow elk to a hunting site on national forest east of Aspen. Later that same day, Sept. 11, he shot a trophy bull that wandered onto the site, according to the allegations.

The elk were killed during archery season. McKinney’s possession of a hunting license isn’t an issue.

After an investigation by wildlife officers, McKinney was ticketed on Oct. 7 for two counts of illegal possession of wildlife, unlawful taking of wildlife and aggravated illegal possession of wildlife.

If found guilty, he could face fines and surcharges of $12,808. The bulk of that amount is due to the killing of the trophy bull. Colorado’s “Samson Law” allows extra penalties for unlawful killing of a large bull.

Judge Ely commented during Tuesday’s hearing that the case involved a large fine. Mordkin responded, “The [district attorney’s office] did offer a way around that.”

That indicates it’s not the money but a requirement of admitting guilt that was a sticking point in the plea bargaining. McKinney has maintained his innocence.

Mordkin said in an interview in November that his client did nothing wrong and that Deputy District Attorney Gail Nichols has no evidence. Nichols isn’t talking about the evidence.

The wildlife division’s entire case is built upon a complaint from another hunter who said he saw a salt or mineral block used at the site where McKinney bagged his two elk, Mordkin said. But that informant didn’t see McKinney bait the site and there’s no evidence McKinney knew it was there, according to Mordkin.

The attorney said his client isn’t just fighting the charges. He’s fighting the stigma.

“He doesn’t want to be labeled a poacher,” Mordkin said in November.

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