Sam Carter, the ex-Boulder, Colorado police officer who was found guilty of multiple felony counts related to his killing of an elk, walked away from a courtroom a free man, receiving four years probation in lieu of prison time. Carter is also obligated to serve 200 hours of community service, 30 days on a work crew and must pay $10,200 in wildlife fines.
Carter was found guilty June 4 of this year on all counts filed against him. His Class 4 felony conviction meant he could have faced six years in behind bars. Carter also received convictions for a Class 5 forgery felony as well as felonies for two counts of tinkering with physical evidence. He is also guilty of official misconduct in the first degree, conspiracy to commit illegal possession of wildlife, using an electronic device to take wildlife, unlawful taking of a big game animal out of season, and possession (illegally) of a trophy animal with a Samson Law surcharge. The Samson Law of Colorado stipulates fines above existing penalties when trophy-sized wild animals are killed.
It was in the late evening of Jan. 1, 2013 when Sam Carter ended his police career by blasting a shotgun at a towering trophy elk – locally known as Big Boy – in Boulder’s stately Mapleton Hill neighborhood. Although Colorado prosecutors had asked Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler for one year in prison, he said that doing so would have mostly been symbolic as Carter would likely have received parole within a few months. Butler said at the sentencing hearing that he had no interest in symbolic gestures, preferring instead to create a sentence “to benefit the community that was harmed.” Other than hugging one of his attorneys, Carrie Slinkard, Carter did not show a reaction as his sentence was being read and did not provide comment upon leaving the courtroom.
Carter’s sentencing closed one of the most combative cases in Boulder’s history. On the day of the shooting, Carter sent a text to a friend and fellow officer, saying that Big Boy was “gonna die” and never denied the fact of the killing. Slinkard tried to convince the jury that Carter had killed Big Boy because it was aggressive and dangerous, therefore obligating him to shoot the animal. She further argued that the officer would actually have gotten in trouble with superiors if he not committed the killing because the animal could have injured a human at some time in the future.
Carter spoke for the first time about the case in public while pleading before Butler for leniency. He apologized, asking for “the chance to repair the damage that I’ve caused.” He reportedly appeared to fight back tears while he read his statement. “I am haunted by this incident every day,” he said.
In asking for one year in prison, the District Attorney for Boulder County, Stan Garnett, described Carter as brazen and arrogant about his convictions. ” He stated that Carter’s actions showed a complete lack of understanding of what the animal meant to the community that he was sworn to serve and protect,” he said.
Carter denied this characterization of himself, but did blame his being “calloused” on his time serving in the military and on the Boulder police force. The situation has caused Carter difficulty in finding a job, the losing of his house and a need to move farther away from his two sons. Many Boulder residents were disappointed in Judge Butler’s sentence, saying Carter deserved prison and outright “disgust” at the sentence. James Gold said the sentence was ” a slap in the face to the community.” One Mapleton Hill resident, Jeremy Frazao, expressed his disappointment in saying that, ultimately, his neighborhood is full of children and adults and “To think that he got off so easily is, to me, really disappointing.”
By Gregory Baskin
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