You may recall a Field Notes blog a year or so ago about a wealthy and politically-connected south Florida businessman charged with a multitude of big-game violations allegedly committed on his private Montana ranch.
The case, which garnered quite a bit of publicity, has finally come to its conclusion with a plea bargain deal.
From this story in the Orlando Sentinel:
Mark Morse, president and chief operating officer of the mammoth Villages retirement community northwest of Orlando, has been fined a total of $4,500 but avoided prison time in a highly publicized Montana poaching case, court officials said Wednesday. Morse, 51, pleaded guilty to hunting without a license, according to the Montana Attorney General’s office.
_Under plea agreements, state prosecutors dropped four felony charges against him for illegal possession of a game animal, each of which could have carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. A second misdemeanor charge of hunting without a license was dropped, too. The head of the retiree haven, population 85,000, appeared Tuesday in Yellowstone and Big Horn counties to deal with charges filed in November 2010. At the time, a Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks spokesman said Morse was accused of “shooting some really nice, big trophy animals.”
The Yellowstone County plea bargain calls for Morse to pay a fine and restitution totaling $2,000 for hunting elk without a license in 2007, court officials said today. The Big Horn County agreement requires him to pay about $2,500 for hunting three buck mule deer in 2008 without a license, Clerk of Court Karen Yarlott-Molina said. The grandson of The Villages founder risked losing his privilege to fish, hunt and trap in Big Sky Country. “He’ll keep his fishing and hunting license,” said John Doran, a communications officer with the Montana Attorney General’s office. Morse was among eight people — including his daughter and wife — who faced charges after a wildlife investigation into big-game hunting violations. The allegations involved Morse family members, business partners and employees._
So here’s the obvious question? Did the punishment fit the crime? Or do you think the defendant’s wealth and status may have played a part in receiving punishment that, at least on the surface, seems a lot less severe than what this guy got in a similar Montana poaching case a few weeks back?