Troy man admits tampering with evidence in grizzly bear killing
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: February 15, 2024

MISSOULA — A Troy man admitted today that he tampered with evidence in the shooting of a grizzly bear on his property in 2020 and discarding of the bear’s GPS collar in the Yaak River, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

The defendant, Othel Lee Pearson, 80, appeared today for arraignment on an amended information charging him with tampering with evidence, a felony, and with failure to report taking of grizzly bear, a misdemeanor. Pearson then pleaded guilty to both charges. Pearson faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the evidence tampering charge and a maximum of six months in prison and a $25,000 fine on the failure to report charge.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided at the plea hearing. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The court set sentencing for June 6. Pearson was released pending further proceedings.

A plea agreement filed in the case calls for the government and defendant to jointly recommend to the court a sentence of three years of probation and an $8,000 fine, which is the restitution amount for illegally killing a grizzly bear under Montana state statute. In exchange for guilty pleas, the United States agrees not to prosecute another individual in connection with the taking of the grizzly bear, and Pearson agrees to cooperate with the United States regarding the skull of a second grizzly bear discovered on National Forest System lands near his property.

As alleged in amended court documents, on Nov. 19, 2020, Pearson shot and killed a sow grizzly bear on his residential property, using a .270 rifle. Pearson cut a GPS collar that had been fitted to the bear and discarded the collar nearby in the Yaak River. Pearson also cut paws, ear tags and an identifying lip tattoo from the bear carcass. Pearson then concealed the bear’s claws and an ear tag in a hollowed-out tree on National Forest System land near his residence. As further alleged, meat from the bear was discovered in Pearson’s freezer inside his home. Pearson attempted to and did tamper with these identifying objects to impair the criminal prosecution for failing to report taking of a grizzly bear. Pearson killed the bear either in self-defense, in defense of others or unlawfully. Pearson did not report the killing of the grizzly bear to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within five days of occurrence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Tanner is prosecuting the case. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted the investigation.

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