Craig A Moffat County rancher accused of poaching elk on his property this winter pleaded guilty to reduced charges in District Court on Thursday.
Kenneth Wolgram, 43, accepted a plea agreement with the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office that will have him convicted of nine counts of illegal possession of wildlife, a misdemeanor.
Wolgram was originally charged with 51 felonies and misdemeanors following a wintertime investigation by Colorado Division of Wildlife officers, who reported finding elk with bullet wounds on Wolgram's property, according to a search warrant affidavit filed with District Court.
Under plea agreement terms, Wolgram will be fined $1,370 for each charge, for a total of $12,330.
Terms also request any jail time ordered by District Court Judge Shelly Hill for the nine misdemeanor charges be capped at 60 days.
Because Wolgram expects to be convicted on more than three illegal possession of wildlife charges, under Colorado statute he would have faced a fine between $1,000 and $10,000 and up to one year in jail for each count if he had not accepted the plea agreement.
Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow said he felt the reduced terms in this case were reasonable.
"That's pretty much consistent with if a hunter were to go out and illegally possess these animals, that's what (he or she) would be facing," he said.
Wolgram also pleaded guilty to nine counts of willful destruction of big game, a Class 5 felony.
However, under plea agreement terms, Wolgram will receive a two-year deferred sentence for each felony charge. If Wolgram commits any violation of the law more serious than a four-point traffic violation within two years from his sentencing, he will be brought back to court to face conviction and sentencing for all deferred charges.
As part of his deferment under plea terms, Wolgram must complete 96 hours of community service within two years of being sentenced.
The judge still may order up to 90 days jail time for each felony count deferred. However, the plea agreement states any jail time for felony charges served now would be capped at 60 days total.
A conviction of willful destruction of big game carries a possible sentence of one to three years in prison, a mandatory two-year parole period, a fine of $1,000 to $20,000 and a possible hunting license suspension of one year to life.
If the judge rejects plea terms, the agreement would be voided and Wolgram would prepare for another agreement or trial.
Wolgram is scheduled for sentencing at 2 p.m. Sept. 25.
His defense attorney, Kris Hammond of Steamboat Springs, declined to comment until after sentencing.
Before accepting a plea agreement, Wolgram was charged with 16 counts of willful destruction of wildlife, a Class 5 felony; 16 counts of illegal possession of wildlife, a misdemeanor; 16 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, a Class 6 felony; and three counts of tampering with physical evidence, a Class 6 felony.
Another Moffat County rancher, Rodney Culverwell, 41, faces similar charges in District Court resulting from another DOW investigation this winter.
Culverwell is charged with 18 counts of willful destruction of big game, a Class 5 felony; 18 counts of illegal possession of wildlife, a misdemeanor; 18 counts of hunting big game without a license, a misdemeanor; 18 counts of hunting out of season, a misdemeanor; and 18 counts of failing to dress wildlife, a misdemeanor.
Culverwell pleaded not guilty to charges Wednesday and is scheduled to begin trial Aug. 25.