RENO, Nev. (AP) - Two Nevada men called "boneheads" by a U.S. judge when he sentenced them to six months in prison for shooting federally protected mustangs may be headed back behind bars for illegal trapping.
Joshua Keathley and Todd Davis are scheduled to appear in a Washoe County Justice Court on March 21 on a misdemeanor citation for failure to visit steel leg-hold traps within 96 hours - a state law intended to help minimize the suffering of animals whose feet are snared in the spring-loaded, metal jaws.
If they plead guilty, the two Lovelock men face a penalty of up to $192 each in fines and court costs, state wildlife officials said. More serious is the possibility they could be found to have violated the terms of their parole.
"We have notified the feds and have been cooperating with them," Chris Healy, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, told The Associated Press.
Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Las Vegas, confirmed federal parole violation charges are pending against the men but said she could not comment further because the charges were sealed.
The men are scheduled to appear on "revocation proceedings" in federal court in Reno on April 18 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert McQuaid Jr., court records show.
McQuaid is the same judge who berated them when he sentenced them for the November 2009 killing of five wild horses after they admitted they had been drinking and used the animals for target practice.
"I keep thinking about it, and I keep coming back to the senselessness of it," McQuaid said at the sentencing Nov. 3, 2010. "Drunken and boneheaded is not an excuse."
Daniel Bogden, U.S. attorney for Nevada, said at the time his office was swamped with as many as 8,000 e-mails from "all over the world" urging maximum prosecution of the two men.
The chief prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sue Fahami, said one of the most "disturbing and "cold-hearted" parts of the crime was the shooters' total disregard for the animals after they were shot and left to die.
"Any hunter knows that when you go hunting, you want a clean shot" that kills the animal quickest, Fahami said.
John Springgate, a Reno lawyer for Keathley in the horse killing case, confirmed he would represent him in the federal proceeding but declined further comment. Todd Plimpton, a Lovelock lawyer for Davis, did not immediately respond to emails or telephone calls.
Davis, 45, and Keathley, 37, completed their prison terms last May but remain on probation through May 10, 2012, Collins said.
Last month, they were in the high desert about 25 miles northwest of Gerlach - not far from where they had shot the horses - when a state game warden caught up with them and cited them for a trapping violation.
Wildlife officials, aided by a special agent for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, determined it had been seven days since the two men had checked their trap line.
No animals were found in the traps, which could be used to capture bobcats, foxes or other small animals. Some animals left in traps for long periods of time have been known to gnaw off legs to escape.
State trapping laws are hard to compare because of variations in seasonal wildlife populations, but Nevada's requirement that traps be checked every 96 hours - four days - is one of the most lax in the nation, according to a recent report by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
More than half the states require leg traps be checked daily and another dozen require visits every 72 hours, said the association's most recent summary of trapping regulations for fur harvesting in the United States in 2007.