By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Tenth Judicial District Attorney Tim Rose plans to file a case in Tenth Judicial District Court against Scott Bidegain and two other defendants in the unlawful hunting case against them, after he dismisses the case in Quay County Magistrate Court.
Rose announced that decision Tuesday after a hearing on a motion to dismiss the case before DeBaca Magistrate Judge Buddy Hall in the Quay County Magistrate Court. Quay County Magistrate Judge Joel Garrett recused himself in this matter.
Bidegain, a Quay County rancher, is the former chair of the New Mexico Game Commission. He resigned as chair of the game commission when the illegal hunting charges were filed against him in February, related to the apparently illegal shooting to death of a cougar on Feb. 9.
There were originally five defendants in the case, but the case against one of them, Chad W. Hassell of Childress, Texas, was dropped in June because there was insufficient evidence to show that he had done more than follow along with others in the incident, Rose said.
In May, defendant Jason Roselius, Oklahoma City, Okla., entered a no-contest plea to first-offense charges of unlawful hunting or fishing. Game and Fish arrest documents identify Roselius as the hunter who actually shot the cougar.
He was sentenced to 90 days of unsupervised probation, according to court documents, and paid $73 in court fees. Another charge against Roselius, illegal killing, was dropped, Rose said. Even though Roselius had acquired a big-game hunting license, he had not obtained the general hunting license he also was required to have, arrest documents show.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Hall denied the defense attorneys’ motion to dismiss the charges.
Defense attorneys Ernie Leger, representing both Billy Ivy of Canyon, Texas, and Larry H. Webb of Newkirk, and Len Walker, representing Bidegain, argued that charges should be dismissed because New Mexico law does not allow charges of assisting in the commission of a crime in cases involving state conservation laws. Conservation laws, the attorneys argued, are not part of New Mexico’s criminal code, and therefore, such “accessory” charges cannot apply to them.
In addition, they argued, accessory charges are meant to apply only to serious felonies, not petty misdemeanors like the illegal hunting charge, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail or a $500 fine.
Rose argued the state law that authorizes accessory charges also applies to “crimes not included in the criminal statute.”
All five defendants were accused of participating in a cougar hunt Feb. 9 on the T-4 Ranch, which Bidegain’s family owns and operates. According to the Game and Fish arrest document, the cougar was tracked and cornered by hunting dogs, but the hunters were not with the dogs as they conducted the hunt, as the law requires.
The 180,000-acre T-4 ranch lies in Quay, San Miguel and Guadalupe counties. The allegedly illegal cougar killing occurred in San Miguel County.