Guide loses appeal of plane forfeit

Posted: Monday, April 02, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Court of Appeals has shot down a hunting guide's argument that forfeiting a plane and losing his guiding license for a decade was too harsh a penalty for his game offenses.

Guide James Baum appealed a sentence handed down by Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton. He argued that losing a $40,000 airplane was an excessive penalty for possessing and transporting unlawfully taken game.

But the appeals court noted Friday that the penalty for a guide's first offense includes a fine up to $30,000, and a second offense can mean a $50,000 fine.

''Given these statutory penalties,'' says the opinion by Judge David Mannheimer, ''we conclude that forfeiture of an airplane worth $40,000 is not disproportionate to James Baum's offense.''

In addition to the issue of excessive penalty, the case held a further complication -- the plane was owned by James Baum's brother, Raymond, who argued that he shouldn't be penalized for James Baum's behavior.

Neither Wolverton nor the appeals judges agreed. The appeals panel noted that James Baum arranged for the purchase, and agreed to lease the plane and one other from his brother for $6,000 a year. And Raymond Baum admitted in the proceedings that he knew his brother had been convicted of previous guiding violations and had forfeited airplanes because of them.

Those factors persuaded Judge Wolverton that Raymond was in a joint venture with his brother, and wasn't an innocent, non-negligent owner as the law requires for him to keep the plane. The appeals panel agreed.

James Baum appealed Wolverton's order that Baum not apply for a hunting or guiding license for 10 years as a condition of his probation.

Baum argued that wasn't fair because the maximum penalty for his violation includes a revocation of his guiding license for no more than five years.

But the appeals panel noted that judges in Alaska have broad authority to set probation conditions.

And, they noted, ''James Baum has been convicted of hunting violations before. He has previously suffered the forfeiture of two airplanes for his violations. Despite these prior convictions and punishments, he continued to violate the hunting laws of this state.''

That gave Judge Wolverton plenty of justification to order the 10-year loss of the licenses, the appeals court decided.

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