The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Butler on Thursday, September 13, 2012.
Brothers James and Marlin Butler sold guided deer hunts to out-of-state hunters, providing lodging, meals, and guiding services. On several occasions, they encouraged their clients to violate state hunting laws. Both pled guilty to conspiring to sell and transport poached deer in violation of the Lacey Act, which prohibits the transportation and sale of unlawfully killed wildlife in interstate commerce. Tasked with calculating the fair market value of the poached deer for sentencing purposes, the district court concluded that the value of each deer was the total amount that a client paid to participate in the guided hunt. Based on this determination, the court sentenced the Butlers to several years’ imprisonment, required that they pay substantial fines and restitution to Kansas, and imposed special conditions of supervision prohibiting both men from hunting, fishing, or trapping wildlife. The brothers appealed.
On appeal, the Tenth Circuit’s central point of controversy was the meaning of “fair market value” of the deer. The Court used this definition: fair market value is “the price at which a willing buyer and willing seller with knowledge of all the relevant facts would agree to exchange the property or interest at issue.” The Court concluded that the guiding fees, which included accommodations and other costs, were not part of the fair market value of the deer. The fair market price should be the price of the animal itself, not the price of the expedition.
The Court went on to hold that the record supported James Butler’s sentence enhancement for being the leader of criminal activity. $25,000 in restitution was also appropriate because the State of Kansas constituted an identifiable victim. The Tenth Circuit finally concluded that the district court improperly imposed James Butler’s special conditions of supervision without considering whether those conditions would interfere with his lawful employment. REVERSED and REMANDED for resentencing.