The second of two Washington state men accused of a wildlife poaching tour that left carcasses across Alaska pleaded guilty Wednesday to five criminal counts that will net him a year in prison, according to the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals.Joseph Querin, 54, was initially charged with 21 game violations stemming from the 2006 hunt that he illegally planned and guided for his friend, Carson Kemmer, 25, according to prosecutors.
"It's unbelievable the number of animals they killed in a 10-day period," said assistant attorney general Andrew Peterson. "They had the illegal hunting trip of a lifetime."
The men were accused of illegally killing, then wasting, the meat of two sub-legal Dall sheep, a sub-legal moose, a brown bear and a caribou during a trip to Alaska between late August and early September 2006, according to charging documents filed in court.
Shortly afterward, wildlife investigators, following up on a tip from their Washington state counterparts, discovered that Querin, an Ocean Park, Wash., resident, had illegally purchased an Alaska resident hunting license and big-game tags, while Kemmer had no Alaska license or tags at all.
Prosecutors say Kemmer was the trigger man for most of the kills, shooting four of the five animals in the Brooks Range along the Dalton Highway and near Turnagain Arm. Querin killed one animal, the second sub-legal sheep, according to prosecutors.
"For most of the animals themselves, Kemmer was the one who pulled the trigger, but what we knew was that Querin facilitated every single one of them being killed," wildlife troopers investigator Robert Welch said.
"(Kemmer) desperately did not want to go to jail and so he was willing to work with the prosecution."
In October, Kemmer struck a plea deal - reducing the 22 charges against him to six - and agreed to testify against Querin in exchange for suspended jail time and a fine of $22,500 to pay, with another $5,885 in restitution due to the state.
Washington authorities arrested Querin on unrelated charges in October after the Washington State Patrol stopped his vehicle because he wasn't wearing a seat belt.
They discovered he had a small amount of methamphetamine and was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant, according to the patrol.
Querin made bail but then skipped out on his court date, leading a Washington judge to issue a warrant for his arrest, Peterson said. Despite being wanted in Alaska as well, he fled to his brother's Wasilla home, where Alaska state troopers arrested him in January. He's been in custody since.
On Wednesday, Querin pleaded guilty to five counts as part of his deal, including lying to get the resident license and tags, illegally possessing game and permitting violations. District Judge Brian Clark sentenced him to serve one year in prison, with nearly three more suspended.
"Significant fines and jail are really essential in cases like this to help wildlife troopers do their job," Peterson said. "Alaska is so remote, there's no way they can catch everyone. It acts as a deterrent."
Querin was also ordered to serve four years of probation and to pay a $4,000 fine. He lost his hunting privileges for four years.
He remained at the Anchorage jail Wednesday afternoon, Peterson said. At some point while Querin is serving his time, Washington will likely "borrow" him to face a judge on charges against him there, he said.
A message left for Querin's lawyer was not returned Wednesday.
Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.