An Alaskan fishing guide pleaded no contest in Gallatin County District Court Monday to four felony counts of unlawful possession of game animals.
Michael "Mike" P. Duby, 36, told Judge Mike Salvagni it was in his best interest to neither confirm nor deny the charges as part of a plea agreement that carries a punishment of 20 years probation, prohibits him from every hunting again, and requires him to pay $15,500 in fines and restitution. Salvagni has not yet approved the deal.
Duby was "unable to admit" to any of the charges primarily because federal charges are pending and a guilty plea could incriminate him, his attorney Hillary Prugh Carls told the judge.
Duby, his father Michael W. Duby, 62, of Arizona; and a friend, Jeffrey C. Fritz, 42, of Washington; were charged with numerous counts of poaching early last year.
Agents with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Alaska Wildlife Troopers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service undertook an investigation when an Alaskan undercover officer found photographs of the men posing with elk, deer and antelope in an album on the younger Duby's charter fishing boat.
The investigation revealed that between 2004 and 2009 the men killed numerous large game animals in Gallatin County without proper licenses.
The elder Duby and Fritz had already pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from the investigation.
On Monday the younger Duby pleaded no contest to illegally taking three whitetail deer in 2004, three deer and two antelope in 2005, four deer and seven antelope in 2006 and one deer and nine antelope in 2007.
Federal charges, though mentioned in court Monday, were not yet public record.
Following his plea, Duby asked if his sentencing could be done via video conference since he is a fishing guide in Alaska and would not be able to come to Montana until September due to tourist season.
Deputy county attorney, Todd Whipple, said he would object to that. The judge agreed, saying it is not "his practice" to sentence someone from afar.
Instead, Salvagni agreed to postpone sentencing until Sept. 26.
"I'm not looking at this in terms of his interests but for all those other people who have plans," he said.