Big Game Hunts for Justin Moore and Josh Thompson Result in Indictment for Montana Tribal Leaders
Country’s own Josh Thompson and Justin Moore are at the center of a controversy that has resulted in legal indictments for some Montana tribal leaders. Three members of the Blackfoot tribe were indicted on Tuesday (Jan. 8) on charges that they held illegal hunts for big animals for a film crew and country performers, including Thompson and Moore.
The Washington Post reports that the hunts took place on the reservation in northwestern Montana in 2010 and 2011. In an appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong in Great Falls, Jay St. Goddard, Jay Wells and Gayle Skunkcap, Jr. all entered pleas of not guilty to six felony counts including conspiracy, the illegal sale of tribal wildlife, theft from a tribal government receiving federal funds and making false statements.
All three of the men charged held key positions in the tribe, and prosecutors say they organized the unlicensed hunts and illegally sold the tribe’s wildlife in exchange for exposure on a television hunting show called ‘The Sovereign Sportsman,’ as well as concerts by the artists. Thompson killed a bull elk in October of 2010 as part of a hunt that is featured on the Sovereign Sportsman Network’s website. In 2011, Moore shot a bull elk during a hunt. Neither Thompson nor Moore has been charged with any crime.
The tribe issues 5-10 big-game hunting licenses each year to non-tribal members, at a cost ranging from $1,500 for a black bear to $17,000 for a bull elk. The indictment alleges that the three accused used tribal money to outfit the unlicensed hunts and pay for a guide, and directed tribal employees to provide tags for the hunts.
Supporters of the men are claiming that the charges have been fabricated by a faction of the tribal council that is at odds with St. Goddard, saying the hunts were organized to raise the poverty-stricken reservation’s profile and boost its struggling economy.