Guide on TV's 'Wild West Alaska' pleads guilty
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A hunting guide who appears on Animal Planet's "Wild West Alaska" television show has pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor hunting or guiding violations, what his attorney calls "paperwork violations."
Jim West, 60, entered the pleas Wednesday in Glennallen, the closest court to his Klutina Lodge in Copper Center. West also owns a gun shop, Wild West Guns, in Anchorage.
West was originally charged with 17 violations. He pleaded guilty to guiding a client who illegally killed a moose in 2009, killing a black bear while guiding in 2011, and failing to remove bear-baiting stations in 2011 and 2012.
The 13 dismissed violations included allegations that West guided on federal land within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve without a commercial-use concession and trespassed on Alaska Native land.
District Court Judge Daniel Schally fined West $40,000 and suspended all but $8,000. He suspended West's guide license for two years but suspended the suspension. The judge also suspended a 20-day jail sentence.
Schally ordered West to serve three years of probation and perform 80 hours of community service. He ordered the state to return a Cessna 185 airplane seized from West.
West accepts responsibility for the violations, defense attorney Brent Cole said.
"I can also tell you that he and I are extremely disappointed in the nature of this investigation and in the actions by the Alaska State Troopers and some of the individuals who handled this case," Cole said.
After 18 months of investigation, the underlying motivations for the prosecution remain suspect, he said.
Cole filed motions over what he said was a lack of information provided by prosecutors. West vigorously disputed trespass allegations and characterized the matter as a dispute between a land owner and user.
"All of the claims that involved trespass were dismissed as they should have been, and they never should have been brought in the first place," Cole said.
What remained, he said, were "paperwork violations."
"For that he received an $8,000 fine and 80 hours of community work service, but at a tremendous loss to his reputation, unfairly I should say, his reputation and his business, which the judge acknowledged."
The airplane, Cole said, was seized two days before the start of the 2013 hunting season and four months before charges were filed. It was more than an inconvenience, Cole said.
"Are you kidding? He's had it gone for a year," he said. "It's just not right what the state does in these forfeiture cases, and somebody needs to reassess our seizure and forfeiture laws."
A message left with a spokesman for Animal Planet was not immediately returned Thursday.