Jim Bell, the Salt Lake County undersheriff, pled guilty on Dec. 4 to two Class A Misdemeanor counts of Attempted Wanton Destruction of Protected Wildlife and Attempted Obstruction of Justice.
Bell, who represented himself, was originally charged with two third-degree felony counts of wanton destruction of protected wildlife and obstruction of justice. He pled guilty as a result of plea negotiations with the Emery County Attorney's Office.
Seventh District Judge, Bryce K. Bryner, sentenced Bell to one year in the Emery County Jail, with said term suspended, and placed him on two years bench probation. As terms of probation, he ordered Bell to pay a fine of $1,850, restitution of $750 to the Help Stop Poaching Fund, and to forfeit his hunting rifle. He further ordered Bell not to go hunting during the period of probation. As an unusual term of probation, Bell was ordered to write a letter of apology to be sent to both major Salt Lake City newspapers.
At the sentencing hearing, Deputy Emery County Attorney, Brent Langston, stressed this case was not about the illegal taking of an elk. Bell may not have been aware the elk was, in fact, a two-point when he shot it. Had he taken steps to contact the fish and game division and been honest about what happened, this case would have resulted in no charges or, at most, a simple ticket, according to Langston. However, Bell chose to try to cover up the truth by first cutting off a tine and later shooting it off in an attempt to make it look like a legal kill.
An elk must be branched on both sides to be illegal during the spike-only hunt. When questioned by fish and game officers, Bell at first denied hunting at all and then denied shooting the horn off. According to Langston the felony charges were based solely on Bell's actions in attempting to cover up his involvement.