over: Poacher gets probation for 15 years of killing
$52,744 in fines,
restitution and court costs
One of Montana's most notorious poachers, Philip Mark
Payton, once hunted moose and other trophy animals with impunity, but
these days the only creature he says he's after is the mouse in his house.
Two years after he was charged, Payton's victims - or
rather their skulls, antlers and hides - stared at him mutely from the
jury box Wednesday, providing a poignant backdrop in the sentencing of one
of the worst cases of illegal killing of big game in decades in the Big
Prosecutors sought a lengthy prison term for Payton, who
violated virtually every hunting law on the books, but he instead received
a large fine and probation and had his hunting, fishing and trapping
privileges revoked for life.
He admitted killing the 30 animals he was charged with,
but denied investigators' claim of brutality toward his victims.
In the end, Judge John Larson rejected the prosecution's
request for a prison term and sentenced Payton to 20 years of probation,
including five years of intensive supervision and 1,000 hours of community
Payton also must pay $52,744
in fines, restitution and court costs. He also was permanently banned from
hunting, fishing and trapping or accompanying anyone in those pursuits in
Montana, a prohibition that extends to 25 other states because Montana is
part of an interstate wildlife compact.
Payton also involved his family and friends in his
poaching. Nine have pleaded guilty and received suspended prison
sentences, temporary loss of hunting privileges and fines, restitutions
and courts costs totaling more than $23,000. One suspect, Dean Hansen, a
veterinarian in Frisco, Texas, remains at large.
Payton said he shouldn't go to prison, in part because
he needs mental health counseling for an obsession with hunting and
medical treatment for prostate cancer.