March 29, 2013 in Idaho

Former Idaho pol’s poaching conviction upheld

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Russell photo

Candidate Rex Rammell with his giant inflatable dinosaur
(Full-size photo)

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Read the full Court of Appeals ruling here.

BOISE – Colorful former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell has lost his second appeal over a 2010 elk poaching charge, with the Idaho Court of Appeals ruling unanimously that two lower courts correctly upheld Rammell’s misdemeanor conviction.

He challenged it on multiple grounds, nearly all centering on his contention that the state didn’t prove he intended to unlawfully kill an elk in the Tex Creek Zone on Nov. 30, 2010. But the high court found that the offense requires no specific intent. “It only requires general intent, namely, that a person knowingly possessed an animal protected under the statute, not that he or she intended to commit a crime,” wrote Court of Appeals Judge David Gratton.

He added, “Rammell does not argue that he did not kill an elk in the wrong hunting zone. His argument rests on the fact that he thought he was allowed to kill an elk wherever he wanted during open season. As the state notes, Rammell’s argument is actually a defense of ignorance of the law. Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. Regardless of whether Rammell intended to violate the law, he still had the intent to possess the elk.”

Rammell gained notoriety in the state after a herd of domestic elk at his eastern Idaho hunting ranch escaped in 2006, prompting then-Gov. Jim Risch to order the escaped animals shot to avoid spreading disease to the state’s wild elk herds. Rammell fought an extended but unsuccessful court battle over that incident, culminating in an Idaho Supreme Court decision against him in September. He also launched a political career out of it, running against Risch for the U.S. Senate in 2008 as an independent and getting 5 percent of the vote.

In 2010, Rammell ran for governor, coming in second to Butch Otter in a six-way primary with 26 percent of the vote. He made waves by traveling the state towing a giant inflatable T-Rex dinosaur as part of his campaign. Last year, he lost a GOP primary for the Legislature in Idaho County, then announced he’d “given up on Idaho” and moved to Wyoming.

A jury convicted him on the elk poaching charge in June 2011. His appeals challenged the jury instructions and rulings on evidence related to intent, but all were upheld. Representing himself in court, he also offered a novel argument to the Court of Appeals that the court lacked jurisdiction over him because it charged him as “Rex F. Rammell,” which he called “a false designation, his name being Rex Floyd Rammell.” That argument also was rejected.


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