(IntegrityPress.org) – Two men, Simon Paul and Travis John Branson, were charged for an alleged “killing spree” targeting federally protected eagles, which they then sold on the black market, according to recent court documents. The grand jury indictment, unveiled last week, charges both men with 1 count of conspiracy and 13 counts of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Federal prosecutors revealed messages from Branson indicating his involvement in “committing felonies” and boasting about being “on a killing spree” to get eagle tail feathers for future sales. The accused, Branson and Paul, worked together with Branson traveling from Washington state to the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, where Paul assisted in killing, transporting, and shipping bald and golden eagles for subsequent illegal sales on the black market.
Court papers emphasized the symbolic importance of the bald eagle as the national symbol of this country, representing America’s ideals of freedom. The indictment disclosed that approximately 3,600 birds, including eagles, were killed by the defendants, who then illicitly sold the eagles for substantial sums of cash within the United States and abroad. The alleged killing spree spanned from January 2019 to March 2021.
While the indictment did not exactly say how many of the 3,000+ killed were protected species, the US Attorney’s Office in Missoula declined to provide further details. As of now, the defendants have not been arrested, but they are summoned to appear in court on January 8, 2024. Branson and Paul did not respond immediately to requests for comments from news outlets.
The primary conspiracy charge carries a potential punishment of up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The legal proceedings underscore the severity of crimes against protected wildlife and the misuse of the national symbol, the bald eagle, for illegal sale on the black market.
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