First Court Date Set for Montana Eagle Killers
Two men accused of killing thousands of birds, including bald eagles in Western Montana have been ordered to make their first appearance on multiple federal charges right after the first of the year.
A grand jury returned an indictment on December 7th against Simon Paul and Travis John Branson, who've been charged by federal prosecutors following a lengthy investigation. They are being accused of killing more than 3,000 eagles and other birds over several years, from January 2015 until March of 2021.
Prosecutors have accused the pair and unnamed "others" in the indictment of killing 3600 birds, primarily in and around Lake County, and the Flathead Reservation, and then trafficking in eagle parts.
The heart of the case revolves around some specific killings of both bald and golden eagles in 2019 and 2021. Prosecutors say Paul, who lived near Ronan, would shoot the birds and then ship the eagles to Branson, who lived in Washington and would also visit the Mission Valley.
The charges include instances where the pair are accused of sending messages to buyers out of state as well as PayPal purchases of eagle feathers, wings, and tails which is a violation of federal laws to protect the endangered raptors. In one message, prosecutors say Brandson told his buyers he was on a "killing spree" to obtain eagle feathers for future sales.
Court dates set
Now, both Paul and Branson have been ordered to appear for their arraignment in U.S. District Court in Missoula on January 8th. That's also when we expect an initial trial date will be set.
Both men face charges of conspiracy, unlawful trafficking of bald and golden eagles, and violations of the Lacey Act, which covers the protection of endangered species.
Looking Back at One of Montana's Most Explosive Fires
Gallery Credit: Dennis Bragg