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Judge overturns trapping ruling

Jeremy Heiman

John Jacob “Jack” Gredig, a sheep farmer in the Basalt area who was cleared of illegal trapping charges by Judge Tam Scott, has found himself snared by a different judge.

Pitkin County District Court Judge Thomas W. Ossola has overturned Scott’s decision, saying that the law the Gredig violated was not unconstitutional.

Gredig was found not guilty by Scott on Dec. 27, 1999. The judge ruled that Gredig was not guilty on the grounds that Amendment 14, a 1996 citizen initiative banning certain methods of trapping, was unconstitutional. But Ossola’s decision, handed down Monday, maintains that Amendment 14 is, in fact, constitutional.

Though Marcia Swain, Gredig’s attorney, said she does not agree with Ossola’s decision, she said she was glad he came to his conclusion quickly.

“We respectfully disagree with the decision he has made,” she said. Although it’s not made clear in the written decision, she said, Ossola’s ruling amounts to a conviction for Gredig.

In Gredig’s original trial, Swain argued that the state constitution prohibits citizen initiatives from creating wildlife regulations, which must be created administratively inside the executive branch of state government. Judge Scott sided with that argument.

But Ossola, in his written District Court decision, cites a previous case that indicates that if a law is permanent in nature, it is to be created legislatively rather than administratively. The citizen initiative process is a type of legislative function.

Swain said she intends to file a motion for reconsideration with the District Court, but said she will also ask the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case. The Supreme Court is not obligated to rule on the case, but may decide to hear it.

However, Chief Deputy District Attorney Bob Weiner said his understanding of legal procedure is that an appeal by the defense would now go to the Colorado Court of Appeals. But under certain circumstances, the appeal might go directly to the Supreme Court, he said.

Weiner said the District Attorney’s office is obliged to defend the law, and that’s what this case is about.

“Our office is charged with protecting the will of the people,” Weiner said.

Gredig, a former Pitkin County road and bridge supervisor, received a summons Aug. 4, 1999, after he turned himself in for setting four snares on his sheep ranch on Emma Road. Attempting to trap predators with such snares was made illegal by Amendment 14, except under certain circumstances.

Gredig’s case is associated with a Saguache-based organization called Wildlife Organizations Legal Fund. One of the fund’s stated purposes is “to raise the money necessary to fund the litigation involved with overturning Amendment 14.” Gredig’s case is apparently one of three statewide being promoted by the fund.

Gredig’s legal defense in the case will be paid for by the Wildlife Organizations Legal Fund. He has no previous record of wildlife violations.

Amendment 14 was passed by Colorado voters on Nov. 5, 1996, with 752,413 votes in favor and 641,733 against. The measure was approved by Pitkin County voters, 4,773 to 1,812.

The amendment prohibits leg-hold traps, body-gripping traps, and poisons and snares, with some exceptions.

If Gredig’s conviction stands, he could be fined $40 and lose points from his hunting and fishing license.


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