Assemblyman Ira Hansen was found not guilty by a justice of the peace in Fallon Wednesday after a half-day trial. He says he feels vindicated, believing the Department of Wildlife has a vendetta against him.
Chris Healy with NDOW issued this statement:
"It was nearly a year ago that our game warden presented the gathered facts in this case to the District Attorney of Churchill County. That office deemed the facts presented to be worthy and this case moved forward in to the prosecutorial phase.
Today in New River Justice Court the District Attorney and the defense both presented their cases to the judge during the trial phase of the process. The decision in the case has been rendered after thorough consideration by the judge. We are disappointed in the result but respect the decision by the judge.
It is the intent of the Nevada Department of Wildlife to move on from this decision and continue to carry out our responsibilities to preserve, protect, manage and restore wildlife populations for the citizens of the State of Nevada."
Hansen has been cited several times since 1980 for minor trapping violations. He paid small fines for some and was found innocent of others.
FALLON, NV - Nevada Assemblyman Ira Hansen has been charged with four misdemeanor counts of illegal trapping.
He says it's all part of a vendetta by state wildlife officials, the latest confrontation in a long history of dispute with the Department of Wildlife..
According to the criminal complaint filed in Fallon, the two term Republican from Sparks is charged with four counts of setting a trap too close to a roadway, a misdemeanor under Nevada law.
Specifically, a game warden from the Department of Wildlife says in early November, Hansen placed traps just off State Route 722, the old highway 50 roadway east of Eastgate in Churchill County.
The law bans traps within 200 feet of a roadway. Trapping critics have long argued placing traps near roads or trails poses a danger to domestic animals, even people
Hansen, a lifelong trapper, serves on the Assembly Natural Resources Committee which oversees legislation affecting Nevada wildlife regulations.
His lobbying efforts on trapping issues, however, date back long before he became a lawmaker. So do his disputes with the Department of Wildlife.
These charges, he says, are just payback for his latest confrontation which dates back to a request for department citation records in 2012.
Although both sides agree he eventually received those records, he says the department initially tried to deny his request and last year he filed a complaint with the attorney general's office charging violation of the state's public records law.
Meanwhile this criminal case may turn on the interpretation of the state's trapping law.
The ban is on steel traps Hansen says the law refers to leg hold traps only and doesn't cover snares which he was using and he points to an opinion from the Legislative Counsel Bureau sought by fellow assemblyman Jim Wheeler. The opinion which appears to support Hansen's point of view.
The Department has had no comment except to say its warden was doing his job. It says the case was turned over to the Churchill County D-A and it will await the outcome of the case in court.
That process begins with Hansen's arraignment on March 3rd in Fallon Justice Court.
Regardless of the outcome it is unlikely to interupt the history of conflict between the department and the assemblyman.