Hutterites Reach Plea Agreement in Grizzly Case

By Beacon Staff

GREAT FALLS — Five members of a northern Montana Hutterite colony and the colony itself have reached plea agreements in a case involving the deaths of two grizzly bears, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

Sam and Daryl Kleinsasser along with Jonathan, Ike and Tom Waldner each agreed to plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor count of possessing a grizzly bear, a threatened species.

The men were not charged with killing the bears. They told authorities they were trying to chase the bears out of a corn field in September 2012 when the bears died of exhaustion. A radio collar on one bear was burned and the bears were buried, court records said.

The agreements, filed Tuesday, call for the men to pay a total of $19,000 in restitution to the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks by Oct. 1, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

The Pondera Hutterite Colony, as a corporation, has agreed to plead guilty to possessing a sow and yearling grizzly. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it won’t recommend more than a $20,000 fine.

Colony attorney Mac Smith said he will argue for lower fines during a hearing on the plea agreement. The hearing has not been scheduled.

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