Hutterites Plead Not Guilty in Bear Death Charges

By Beacon Staff

GREAT FALLS — Six members of a northern Montana Hutterite colony have pleaded not guilty to possessing two illegally killed grizzly bears.

Pondera colony minister Leonard Kleinsasser and five other members entered their pleas Tuesday during an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Great Falls.

Federal prosecutors charged the colony members in June after investigators found the bears buried on the Hutterites’ land.

Kleinsasser told a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent that colony members were chasing the protected animals in a field in September, and the bears died from exhaustion.

Court documents say the colony did not report the deaths because they were afraid.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong set an Oct. 3 trial date.

Defense attorney Mac Smith declined to comment after the hearing.

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