DA appealing case of illegal trapping in district court | AspenTimes.com

DA appealing case of illegal trapping in district court

Jeremy Heiman

A prosecutor’s appeal of the acquittal of a Basalt-area rancher on trapping charges must go directly to the Colorado Supreme Court, says an attorney for the defense.

Defense attorney Marcia Swain of Grand Junction said she hopes to file an action with the Colorado Supreme Court by the end of this week, challenging the filing of the appeal in district court by the district attorney’s office.

John Jacob “Jack” Gredig, a former Pitkin County road and bridge supervisor, was found not guilty Dec. 27 in a Pitkin County Court decision by former Judge Fitzhugh “Tam” Scott. The decision upheld the defense’s argument that Amendment 14 – a 1996 citizens initiative which outlawed some kinds of trapping – is unconstitutional. Swain argued that the state constitution prohibits citizens initiatives from creating wildlife regulations, which are to be created administratively within the executive branch of state government.

Swain said her brief will employ “a variety” of arguments that the initial appeal should go directly to the state’s highest court. She said she will file a document known as either a “petition in prohibition” or a “complaint in prohibition.”

A press release from the Wildlife Organizations Legal Fund, which is bankrolling Gredig’s defense, calls appealing the case to district court a “maneuver.”

But Bob Weiner, chief deputy district attorney in the 9th Judicial District, said that an appeal to district court is the next stop for the case under any circumstances.

“That’s where it has to go. It’s not a maneuver,” Weiner said. “There are certain steps you have to take.” He said his staff had checked with the Colorado Attorney General’s office, and were reassured that district court is the next step.

Colorado Assistant Attorney General Tim Monahan, who acts as general counsel to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, told The Aspen Times last month that the rules of criminal procedure indicate the prosecuting attorney would appeal a county court ruling to district court initially. Under those rules, he said, the district attorney’s office can then appeal to the state Court of Appeals, and if the law is ruled unconstitutional there, to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Weiner said his office has little choice but to pursue the appeal. Amendment 14 is a law created by the will of Colorado’s voters, and the district attorney’s office is obligated to appeal, he said.

“We are sworn to uphold the law,” he said.

Swain said she will also ask the Supreme Court to combine the appeal of Gredig’s acquittal with the appeals of two convictions under Amendment 14. In each of those cases, men were found guilty of setting illegal traps for wildlife, one in Saguache County and one in Chaffee County.

Gredig turned himself in to a Colorado Division of Wildlife officer after setting four snares for coyotes on his Emma sheep ranch last summer. Attempting to trap predators with such snares was made illegal by Amendment 14.

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