Grizzly shooting case headed to 9th Circuit

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On Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the appeal of a Ronan farmerís conviction for killing a grizzly bear.

The events at issue took place on May 11, 2014, when Brian F. Charette and his then-wife, Jessica, awoke to see three grizzly bears behind their home. Accounts differ on the specifics. Brian claimed that one of the bears, a sow, reared up on its legs and was either standing on or climbing the horse pasture fence; Jessica Charette testified that the bears were chasing horses in the pasture 20 to 30 yards away, but not approaching the house.

Brian Charette shot the sow. In July 2016, Jeremiah C. Lynch, federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court in Missoula, found him guilty of unlawfully taking an endangered species. Charette was sentenced to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The defendant appealed. His attorney, John Rhodes with the Missoula-based Federal Defenders of Montana, argued that Charetteís constitutional rights had been violated by the courtís denying a jury trial, and that the court had erred in defining the elements of his charged offense and in denying his motion for a judgment of acquittal.

The District Courtís Chief Judge, Dana Christensen, rejected those arguments and upheld the conviction on March 15, 2017.

The caseís next stop is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court meets throughout the West, and will hold a special sitting at the University of Idaho College of Law in Moscow this week. Circuit judges Richard C. Tallman, N. Randy Smith and Morgan Christen will hear appeals of several cases from the Montana and Eastern Washington district courts, including Charetteís.

Rhodes could not be reached for comment. According to court spokesperson David Madden, the timing of a decision from the judges is uncertain.

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4407.

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