PORT ANGELES — Jason Bradley Hutt was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison for hunting violations in one of the largest poaching cases in state history.
Hutt, 29, of Sequim was sentenced in Clallam County Superior Court to 38 months plus one year of community custody.
He entered an Alford plea to five counts of first-degree unlawful hunting of big game and single counts of waste of wildlife, second-degree unlawful hunting of wild birds, second-degree hunting of wild animals, bail jumping and possession of methamphetamine.
An Alford plea means Hutt does not admit guilt but admits there is enough evidence to support a conviction.
“I should have thought a little bit more before I was doing what I was doing,” Hutt told Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour.
“I’m here to man up. What I did was wrong. I’m here to deal with it.”
State Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators said Hutt and an accomplice — Wyatt James Beck — illegally killed several bears, deer and elk in Clallam and Jefferson counties in the summer of 2018.
Hutt was previously charged with 24 counts of poaching-related crimes in Clallam County and two counts in Jefferson County for the illegal slaughter of two elk near Brinnon School.
“I’m not aware of anyone else going to prison for a wildlife poaching case like this before,” Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Kit Rosenberger said in a Thursday interview.
“A big part of the success of this case was the community support.”
Matthew Roberson, Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney, said Hutt is the first person in the state to go to prison on a first-degree unlawful hunting of big game conviction since the charge became a ranked felony.
“Traffickers have gotten prison sentences, but this is the first poaching case that I’m aware of where there’s prison involved, and I think in this case it is merited,” Roberson said.
“I think that communicates a deterrence for him,” Roberson added.
“It communicates deterrence for the general population. Those who would want to engage in crimes like Mr. Hutt will now know, at least in Clallam County, you can be sent to prison for poaching.”
Roberson and defense attorney Douglas Kresl recommended the 38-month sentence as part of a global resolution to Hutt’s four cases in Clallam County and one case in Jefferson County. The sentencing range was 33 months to 43 months.
Hutt is still charged in Jefferson County with two counts of first-degree unlawful hunting of big game, Prosecuting Attorney James Kennedy said Wednesday.
“The Jefferson County case, whatever happens, that would be concurrent with our case and it would not impose any additional time,” Roberson said Thursday.
Beck, 24, also of Sequim, pleaded guilty in Clallam County Superior Court Jan. 30 to four counts of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game with accomplice liability.
He was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and 30 days on electronic home monitoring.
Fish and Wildlife investigators said Beck helped Hutt poach three bears and three deer in Clallam County and two elk in Jefferson County in 2018.
State game officers, working with Clallam County sheriff’s deputies and the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team, discovered illegally-hunted or illegally-possessed river otter pelt, bobcat pelt and a harlequin duck carcass while serving a search warrant at Hutt’s residence last Aug. 30, court papers said.
Fish and Wildlife Officer Bryan Davidson said Hutt collected elk and deer heads as trophies.
Roberson said Hutt had more than 40 antlers and animal skulls at his residence.
Beck and Hutt were ordered to split $8,000 wildlife fines. Hutt was ordered to pay an additional $2,000 fine by himself.
Hutt said he had a drug problem and sought a chemical dependency assessment on his own accord.
“I plan on, once I get out of prison, leaving the community anyways and moving out of state,” Hutt told Coughenour.
Roberson said Hutt shot a bear without a license in an area where it had been fed and left the carcass to rot.
“This isn’t a case of a guy who makes an honest mistake,” Roberson said.
“This is a case of a guy who knows it’s wrong, and we know he knows it’s wrong because he has prior convictions in 2016 for unlawful hunting of big game, second degree, and he has a prior conviction for unlawful recreational fishing, second degree.
“He knows the rules,” Roberson added.
“He just doesn’t care about the rules.”
Ten letters were submitted to the court asking the judge to impose prison time for Hutt.
“You would be amazed at the reaction of the community to this,” Coughenour told Hutt.
“I’ve had murder cases and rape cases where we didn’t get as many letters from community people saying ‘Send this guy away because of this kind of activity.’
“This is a unique case,” Coughenour added.
“As Mr. Roberson points out, I don’t usually send people to prison for these kinds of offenses.”
Roberson credited Fish and Wildlife officers for their work in the year-long, two-county investigation.
“If not for their efforts, Mr. Hutt probably would still be out there poaching, stealing the community’s wildlife,” Roberson said.
In a Thursday interview, Rosenberger said the case was “not a victimless crime.”
“It’s a crime for all the people of Washington that enjoy watching wildlife or having wildlife around them,” Rosenberger said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.