March 6, 2013

By Matt Volz, FlatHeadBeacon.com

HELENA – Three former Blackfeet tribal leaders pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges they held illegal big-game hunts for country musicians participating in an outdoors television show on the northwestern Montana reservation.

Jay St. Goddard, Jay Wells and Gayle Skunkcap Jr. admitted to holding four hunts between 2010 and 2011 without obtaining the limited and expensive hunting licenses for non-tribal members to shoot elk, moose, deer and a black bear. The three men also admitted to using tribal funds and personnel to outfit and guide the musicians, television show hosts and a fly fishing expert.

The men are not accused of personally profiting from the hunts. Rather, they exchanged them for free concerts by country artists that included Josh Thompson, Justin Moore and Mark Cooke, and for exposure on a satellite television show called “Sovereign Sportsman” they estimated was worth $150,000.

St. Goddard and Wells are former members of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, the tribe’s governing body, while Skunkcap was the tribe’s Fish and Game director.

The sale of illegal wildlife charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while the theft charge carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney said prosecutors also are likely to ask for restitution to the tribe of up to $70,000.

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