Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS > 2005

Soudan man faces charge on trapping violations

 Jim Romsaas

Mesabi Daily News

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 06th, 2005 05:11:40 PM

VIRGINIA — The attorney for Fred Paul Precht argued Monday against admitting certain statements his client gave to conservation officers on alleged trapping violations.

Precht, 49, of Soudan is charged with four counts of being over the limit on pine martens or fishers and three counts of possession of prohibited wild animals stemming from a case last December near Isabella.

Defense attorney Bruce Williams argued the statements should be suppressed because his rights were not read to him at the correct time and he was not free to go. He also feels the prosecution is trying to make an example out of Precht.

Upon questioning from Assistant County Attorney Karl Sundquist, DNR Conservation Officer Kipp Duncan testified that he had told Precht he was free to leave. He also said Precht was read his miranda warning, but it was not until about 10 hours after the initial contact.

Judge Gary Pagliaccetti took the case under advisement and will make a ruling after the defense and prosecution briefs are completed. The defense brief is due April 18, while the state’s is due April 25.

According to the criminal complaint, Precht was in possession of 36 pine marten, 12 mink, seven otter, and 13 fisher. A further search of the kitchen refrigerator/freezer of the Precht house resulted in the following animals seized: one otter, two muskrat, and five pine marten.

The limits for the wild animals, according to the 2004 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations, are as follows:

• Pine marten and fisher, 5 combined.

• Otter, 4.

• Mink and muskrat, no limit.

Williams contended that the statement should be suppressed because it came before Precht was read his rights. That means anything that flowed from the statement, including the search of the garage, should not be admissable.

The first contact with Precht was around 1 p.m. and his rights were read to him at about 11 p.m.

The confiscation of Precht’s cell phone for “officer safety’’ also came before his rights were read, Williams said. Doing that prevented Precht from calling for legal counsel if he so desired, he added.

Duncan testified, however, that the phone could have been used to have someone remove the animals from the garage or just have someone waiting in Soudan for the officers.

Williams found it ironic that the phone was taken, but not Precht’s .22-caliber rifle he store in his truck for trapping trips.

Regarding being free to leave, Duncan testified officers told Precht he could leave and he was never put in a the officers’ vehicle or in handcuffs.

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