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Colorado officer mounts criminal defense against game charges

A trial is slated to begin in the coming days in the case of a former Colorado police officer who shot and killed an elk in the midst of a municipality. The man must mount a criminal defense against allegations that he committed several felonies, including forgery, tampering with physical evidence and attempting to influence a public official. The former Boulder officer killed the elk 15 months ago, and the community has been in an uproar ever since.

The 37-year-old defendant could face up to six years in prison if he is convicted of the most serious crime. He is also accused of misdemeanors including conspiracy to commit illegal possession of wildlife and unlawfully taking of a big game animal out of season. The defendant said that he shot the elk on New Year's Day 2013 because he saw that it was injured. However, an evaluation showed that there had not been any prior injury to the animal.

The defendant said that he called the incident in to his supervisors; however, there is apparently no record of the incident in the logs. Officers are supposed to report any instances in which they fire their weapon. Additionally, experts say that the man may have tampered with the evidence at the crime scene because he was familiar with forensic procedure.

Another officer who helped haul the elk away has already pleaded guilty to one felony charge and four misdemeanors. He received house arrest and a year of probation. The defendant accused of actually killing the animal is instead choosing to go to trial as part of his criminal defense strategy.

Criminal defendants have the option in many cases to negotiate with prosecutors, exchanging a less-severe punishment for a guilty plea. If they choose not to pursue that avenue, a jury can decide whether the defendant is responsible for the crimes.

Source: Boulder Daily Camera, "Trial to begin in killing of elk on Mapleton Hill" Mitchell Byars, May. 26, 2014

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