An ex-officer for the Boulder, Colorado police was found guilty today on all counts in the trial related to his killing of a locally cherished trophy elk. The jury agreed with prosecutors that Sam Carter had made plans to kill the elk, and attempted to use his police status to cover up the deed. Included in the counts against him were four felonies.
Carter had interrupted the tranquility of leafy and historic Mapleton Hill on New Years Day last year when he shot and killed the neighborhood’s resident six-point bull elk. The Boulder community has been holding its collective breath ever since, awaiting the outcome of Carter’s trial. Sentencing will take place Aug. 29. Based upon his Class 4 felony conviction, he could face up to six years in prison. He was also convicted of a Class 5 felony (forgery) and a Class 6 felony (tampering with physical evidence, two counts).
Carter was also convicted of conspiring to commit illegal possession of wildlife, official misconduct in the first degree, unlawful taking of a big game animal out of season, unlawfully using an electronic communication device to unlawfully take wildlife, and illegal possession of a trophy elk with a Samson Law surcharge. Colorado’s Samson Law obligates fines above existing penalties for the taking of trophy-sized wildlife. The amount of the fine in this case was not known at press time.
Evidence was presented on Friday that Officer Carter had sent out a text before the actual poaching saying the elk, nicknamed “Big Boy,” was “gonna die”. The prosecution closed the case Tuesday with words from Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, who told the jury that the case ” … is about two things. An amazing animal… and the truth, and a Boulder police officer who didn’t want you to know the truth.”
Brent Curnow, a friend of Carter’s and a fellow officer, was off-duty at the time of the shooting and responded to Carter’s request to bring his personal pickup truck to the scene to haul away the big, dead bull elk. Curnow faced the same charges as Carter but had earlier accepted a plea bargain. Garnett told the jury that the two were outside their rights to use their privilege as police officers to kill the animal and then lie about it.
Carter never denied that he had shot Mapleton Hill’s unofficial mascot while he was on duty. His guilt or innocence in the trial in Boulder centered on whether, as he claimed, he killed the elk because the animal was injured and aggressive or if the shooting was something he planned to do and then attempted to cover up.
Not denying the fact of the killing, Carter’s attorney, Carrie Slinkard, argued he had shot the elk because it was aggressive and therefore dangerous. She declared that Carter had “an obligation to euthanize.” She argued that Carter would have gotten in trouble had he not shot Big Boy, because not doing so meant the animal just might have gored a human at some point in the future.
For the closing argument in what had simply become known as The Boulder Elk Trial, prosecutor Fred Johnson’s final attempt to get a guilty conviction was invoked with a display of the now-infamous photograph of Carter posing happily with Big Boy’s carcass at the scene of the crime. “The truth is ugly in this case, and it’s about time (Carter) is made to face it,” he said.
By Gregory Baskin