Intimidating witnesses after killing a protected bird may land a Louisiana man in federal prison for more than 20 years.
A federal court in Little Rock found Alfred M. Craft, 60, guilty of two counts of obstruction of justice July 14 in connection with the death of a bald eagle in Izard County.
Craft is facing up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine if the maximum sentence is imposed.
Bud Cummins, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said Craft poisoned and broke the neck of a bald eagle in February of 2004 on a piece of property he owns in Calico Rock.
Earlier this year Craft pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Bald Eagle Act and two counts of violating the Migratory Bird Act.
"The disregard for protected wildlife and the environment in this investigation cried out for justice," Cummins said.
As the investigation progressed in February of 2004, Craft threatened two witnesses, which led to additional charges, Cummins said.
According to published reports, Craft threatened his ex-wife, Debbie Tatum and one of his employees, Scottie Shreve after Shreve contacted state and federal officials to report the killing.
Craft told Shreve that a bald eagle is "nothing more than a buzzard" and laughed as he strangled the bird according to Cummins.
"This defendant only compounded his problems when he chose to intimidate grand jury witnesses -- something we simply never tolerate," Cummins said.
Craft was taken into immediate custody by U.S. marshals after the verdict was read. He could receive an addition 18 months in federal prison and another $140,000 in fines.
Convicts in the federal system receive only one day of good time per month, meaning Craft will serve more than 90 percent of his sentence behind bars.
"As the penalties reflect, poisoning bald eagles is craven conduct and serious business, but witness intimidation is even worse," Cummins said.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an anonymous caller reported that Craft had poisoned a bald eagle with Temik, a federally controlled poison.
According to published reports, Craft admitted to poisoning animals with Temik to keep them off his property. He said the animals ate his turkey eggs which he used to hunt turkey.
After poisoning the bird, Craft twisted its neck and reportedly said, "I wish they were all dead."
Federal agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency raided Craft's property Feb. 11 and found evidence of the poisoning, said Cummins.
Craft's sentencing date was unknown as of press time. The case was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Jeffrey P. La Vicka and U.S. Attorney Bill Adair.