Not-guilty pleas were entered yesterday in a Spokane courtroom during arraignment hearings for three members of a Twisp, Wash., family accused of killing wolves and other Federal crimes.
A trial date of Sept. 6 has also been set for William “Bill” White, his son, Tom White and Tom’s wife, Erin White, according to Tom Rice, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Washington.
The trio were indicted in early June by a grand jury on eight wolf-related counts, including two counts of illegally killing two wolves in 2008, two counts of conspiracy, and one count each of unlawful export of an endangered species, smuggling, false labeling of wildife for export, and making false statements.
Tom White is accused of killing the wolves, one in mid-May 2008 and another in mid-December 2008.
According to Federal court papers, the alleged illegal activity was discovered on Dec. 22, 2008, when a shipping agent in Omak refused to pick up a bloody package, inside of which a wolf pelt was discovered. Detective work led law enforcement officers back to the family which lives just outside Twisp, where the state’s first wolf pack in 70 years settled.
The maximum penalty for killing Endangered Species Act-listed wolves is $100,000, a year in jail and civil fines.
More may have been killed. Court papers indicate that Bill White emailed about shooting three and say he spread poison to kill some as well.
According to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife spokeswoman in Denver, there has been no other case in the Northwestern U.S. where a person or group of people has been charged with killing more than one wolf.
Bill White was also indicted on four counts of smuggling goods into the U.S. and unlawful importation of wildlife.
A message left on his phone was not returned; the family have not had any public comments since the indictment.
Rice said the not guilty plea is a standard one when defendants appear before a magistrate judge.
“They can’t accept any other plea,” he says of the judge.
The trial date is subject to defense motions, Rice adds.