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Leader of Washington Poaching Ring Sentenced - A total of 10 men have been convicted for illegal hunting

February 18, 2005

Michael James Gates, 32, of Yakima, Washington, was sentenced today to six months in jail with work release and ordered to pay $10,000 restitution for killing a trophy-class bull elk and two mule deer while hunting illegally on the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve of the Hanford Reach National Monument in southeastern Washington.

In U.S. District Court in Richland, Judge Edward Shea also ordered Gates to complete 150 hours of community service and revoked his right to own a firearm or hunt anywhere in the United States for three years. Gates will be on probation for four years. He was convicted of three misdemeanor charges in connection with the game violations.

Gates could have been sentenced to three years in prison but Judge Shea said he allowed Gates to remain on work release because he has children at home and child support to pay. Gates recently relocated to Eugene, Oregon, and is serving his sentence at Lane County Correctional Institution.

Special Agent Steve Magone of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Gates was the ringleader of 13 suspects who killed about 10 animals illegally on the Hanford National Monument and in Klickitat County, Washington. Gates was charged with illegally killing trophy animals, cutting off their heads and leaving the carcasses.

"It was the worst case I've ever seen of people wasting the animals they'd killed," said Special Agent Magone, who has worked wildlife cases for 29 years.

Gates was convicted of shooting the trophy elk on October 7, 2002, and killing the two mule deer on October 28, 2002. Investigators were able to link Gates and the others to the crimes by using DNA testing. They used samples from the headless bodies found on the Reach, blood samples from hunting knives and bone samples from confiscated antlers. The Fish and Wildlife Service's Forensics Lab in Ashland, Oregon, made the connections.

Magone said Gates hung the deer and elk racks up in his house and that he and the others kept them on their property and took pictures of themselves with their trophies.

In March, Gates is scheduled to appear in Washington's Klickitat County District Court on state charges of over-limit hunting, spotlighting big game and illegally hunting turkeys.

Nine other men were sentenced earlier in connection with the illegal game kills:

Richard Neal Ellis Jr., 43, of Goldendale, Washington, was sentenced to 20 days in jail and fined $6,000. He is barred from possessing a firearm or hunting anywhere in the United States for two years and will be on probation during that time. Ellis also forfeited $550 to Klickitat County for illegally hunting wild turkeys.

Shayne Dollarhyde, 30, of Goldendale, Washington, was fined $1,100 and ordered to pay a civil assessment of $6,225 to Benton County (WA) Court for killing a 6-point bull elk on the Hanford National Monument. He also received a 365-day suspended sentence.

David Grubbe, 41, of Portland, Oregon, was fined $6,500 and sentenced to 365 days in jail, with 318 suspended, for killing a 6-point bull elk on Hanford National Monument.

Billy Ray Mitchell Jr., 25, of Yakima, Washington, was fined $400 for trespassing and aiding and abetting. He received a 1-year deferred jail sentence and had his hunting privileges suspended for one year.

Barry G. Mitchell, 21, of Yakima, was fined $400 and sentenced to 10 days in jail for aiding and abetting.

Robert Shaver, 45, of Goldendale, Washington, was fined $350 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 86 days suspended.

Donald Avery, 33, of McKenna, Washington, was fined $575 for aiding and abetting the hunting and possession of big game on the Hanford National Monument. He also received a 365-day suspended jail sentence and two years of probation. He was fined $1150 in Klickitat County for illegally hunting and possessing wild turkeys and aiding and abetting in the spotlighting of two mule deer bucks shot by Gates.

Donald Stinebaugh, 42, of Goldendale, Washington, forfeited $250 in bail in Klickitat County District Court for the unlawful transfer of a big game tag.

Randy White, 43, of Goldendale, was fined $125 and placed on probation for 2 years for aiding and abetting. He also received a 90-day suspended jail sentence.



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