Ranchers plead not guilty in elk cases

Two Moffat County ranchers charged with multiple counts of felony and misdemeanor poaching crimes have pleaded not guilty.

Rodney Culverwell, 41, is charged with 18 counts of willful destruction of big game, a Class 5 felony, and 18 counts of illegal possession of wildlife, a misdemeanor.

Kenneth Wolgram, 43, is charged with 16 counts of willful destruction of big game and 16 counts of illegal possession of wildlife.

The 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office filed charges against both suspects April 1 after separate investigations by Colorado Division of Wildlife officers. DOW investigations took place at separate times earlier this year.

Trial dates for both cases were set Monday afternoon in Moffat County District Court.

Culverwell, who is represented by Pamela Mackey of Denver, is ordered to appear for a jury trial at 8:15 a.m. Aug. 25 in District Court.

A motions hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 13. That date also is the deadline for Culverwell to enter into a plea agreement with the District Attorney's Office, should he choose to do so.

Wolgram, defended by Kristopher Hammond of Steamboat Springs, is ordered to appear for a jury trial at 8:15 a.m. Sept. 8.

A motions hearing in that case - which also marks Wolgram's plea agreement deadline - is set for 8:30 a.m. June 25.

Both men are charged with illegally killing elk on their property this winter.

DOW search warrant affidavits filed in the Moffat County Courthouse state DOW officers found dead elk on each man's property on multiple occasions.

After warranted searches on those properties, DOW officers confiscated elk carcasses, firearms and ammunition.

A search of Wolgram's property also yielded packages of non-commercially processed meat.

Hammond said at least one motion he intends to file on Wolgram's behalf is a "choice of evils" defense, which he added would require jury instruction.

Hammond said that motion may fall along the lines of whether Wolgram should shoot elk on his property or suffer a financial loss by allowing the elk to eat large amounts of his hay.

Prosecutors said they anticipate filing additional charges against both suspects.

Deputy District Attorney Ed Veronda, who will prosecute Wolgram's case, said the new charges are "mostly misdemeanors."

O'Hara gave Veronda 15 days to file additional charges. Veronda said he plans to file additional charges next week.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow, who will prosecute Culverwell, was not available for today's hearing.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Barrett appeared on Snow's behalf. He said he could not comment on what additional charges might be filed.

The District Attorney's Office has until June 20 to file additional charges in Culverwell's case.

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