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Barnes man among 4 sentenced for illegal hunting

Four Wisconsin men were sentenced in federal court Tuesday, Feb. 26, for crimes related to an illegal 2017 mountain lion hunt in Montana.

David Johnson, 31, of Barnes; Darren Johnson, 52, of Deer Park; and Turtle Lake residents Robert Peters, 53, and Steven Reindahl, 55, were convicted of crimes violating the Lacey Act and conspiring to obstruct a 2018 federal grand jury investigation, according to a release from Scott Blader, U.S. district attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin.

All four were sentenced to probation: two years for Peters and Reindahl, three years for David Johnson and four years for Darren Johnson (who is no relation to David). The men aren't allowed to hunt, trap or accompany others engaged in those activities for two years as a condition of probation.

Peters and Reindahl were fined $5,000; David Johnson was fined $25,000; and Darren Johnson was fined $30,000.

Judge Stephen Crocker ordered the men to forfeit items used during the illegal hunt, including two rifles, a shotgun, binoculars, dog collars and a pickup truck, as well as a mountain lion hide, mount and skull and a bobcat hide and mount.

Crocker said the four men loved and lived to hunt, but cut corners and cheated. The sentences were meant to send a message that if you don't play by the rules you face severe consequences.

"Hunting is a privilege, not a right. The rules apply to everyone," Crocker said. "You cannot cheat."

The four men were in Mosby, Montana, on Jan. 6, 2017, hunting mountain lions with their dogs. Only Darren Johnson and Steve Reindahl had valid licenses to hunt the big cats. When dogs treed a mountain lion that morning, David Johnson used Darren Johnson's rifle to shoot it. Darren Johnson put his tag on it and told the others to stick to the story that he shot it.

Peters and Reindahl were called before a grand jury to testify June 21, 2018. They later admitted they lied, recanted the testimony and explained that David Johnson shot the mountain lion. They said Darren Johnson told them at a meeting June 17 not to tell the truth to the grand jury.

The charges against the men were the result of an investigation conducted by special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

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