Federal Plea Deal with Makah Whalers Falls Apart

From the Seattle Times:

TACOMA — A plea agreement expected from five Makah whalers this afternoon fell apart when the whalers realized that the U.S. government planned to restrict their future whale hunts.

Federal authorities expected the five tribal members who killed a gray whale during an unlicensed hunt last September to sign off on the plea — which would have kept the whalers from serving jail time.

Because they declined to take the plea deal, the whalers still face up to one year in custody, a $100,000 fine, up to five years of probation and possible community service. The five men will return to court Thursday with either a new plea agreement worked out or to make plans for the case to go to trial.

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NPR: Makah Views Whalers as Heroes and Nuisances

From NPR:


All Things Considered, March 12, 2008 · Five Makah Indians are due in federal court next month to face charges of illegally killing a gray whale in the waters off Washington state. The men say they did it out of frustration: Their tribe has a recognized treaty right to hunt the whales, but it has been waiting years for a government permit.

The hunters’ actions have had more than just legal consequences. The rest of the tribe has come to see them as both troublemakers and heroes.

Wayne Johnson, one of the men, says he’s afraid to go back to the Makah reservation and face the leaders of his tribe. His troubles started on a sunny day last September, when he decided he was no longer going to wait for a government permit to go whaling.

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U.S. v. Gonzales et al. — Makah Whalers — Hearing re Pre Trial Motions

In response to the pre-trial motions that have been filed, the district court will hear these motions on February 19 and 20, 2008. There will be a full evidentiary hearing on these motions. The court also granted the Makah Tribe’s motion for leave to appear as amicus in this case.

DCT Scheduling Order

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U.S. v. Gonzales et al. — Makah Whalers — Up to Date Materials

The Makah whaling case in federal court is turning into a very interesting discussion of whaling treaty rights and federal criminal procedure.

Here are the current materials in United States v. Gonzales, et al., No. CR 07-5656 JKA (W.D. Wash.):

United States v. Gonzales Indictment

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Makah Tribe Proposed Amicus Brief in Federal Whaling Prosecution

The Makah Nation has filed a motion for leave to file an amicus brief in the United States v. Gonzales whaling prosecution. Here are the materials, including Defendant Noel’s opposition to the motion:

Makah Amicus Brief

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Makah Tribal Court Whaling Trial Delayed

From Indianz:

Makah Nation delays trial for unauthorized hunt

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Makah Nation of Washington has delayed a trial for five members accused of an illegal whale hunt.

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U.S. v. Gonzales et al. — Makah Whalers — Update

We previously published the indictment here. There have been two motions to dismiss the indictment and a motion to suppress evidence. There has been no federal response yet. Here are those materials:

Defendants Motion to Dismiss Count 1

Defendants Motion to Dismiss Count 2

Defendants Motion to Suppress

Makah Tribal Court Whaling Charges Filed

From the Peninsula Daily News:

Whalers plead not guilty to tribal charges


By Jim Casey, Peninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY – The five members of the Makah tribe accused of illegally killing a whale will go to trial in tribal court Jan. 22.

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Federal Indictment in Makah Whalers Case — U.S. v. Gonzales et al.

Here’s the federal indictment in the Makah whalers case, United States v. Gonzales, et al., No. CR 07-5656 JKA (W.D. Wash.): United States v. Gonzales Indictment