Ira Hansen not guilty in Churchill trapping case
Embattled Sparks lawmaker Ira Hansen was on the winning end of his yearlong battle on Wednesday regarding illegal trapping in Churchill County.
Hansen, who stepped down as Speaker of the Nevada Assembly earlier this week, was found not guilty on four counts by visiting Justice of the Peace Richard Glasson of Incline Village of trapping near a public road or highway within 200 feet. The afternoon bench trial was held in Fallon’s New River Township Justice Court.
The four citations, which Hansen received in November 2013, totaled $100. He said he spent more than $5,000 in legal fees “on principle” to defend himself.
In addition, Hansen said this is the fourth case in the past 10 years he either won or had dismissed in what he called a “vendetta” against him by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
“I know it was,” Hansen said of the vendetta. “They have been doing this stuff to me since 1992.”
The only witness called by Churchill County Deputy District Attorney Chelsea Sanford was NDOW Game Warden John Swisher.
Swisher said he cited Hansen for four traps and “cut him a break” on a fifth citation. Swisher came across the traps on Nevada Route 722 (Unit 184) and contacted Hansen about the possible violation.
Swisher said one of the snare traps captured and killed a bobcat, although Hansen was never told of the catch.
Hansen’s attorney, Philip Kreitlein, turned the discussion around “ambiguous” language in the law, which was passed in 1931.
The law states, “It is unlawful for any person, company or corporation to place or set any steel trap, used for the purpose of trapping mammals, larger than a No. 1 Newhouse trap, within 200 feet of any public road or highway within this state.”
Kreitlein’s defense centered on steel jaw traps not the snares Hansen used.
Sanford countered, saying the snare is a metal trap and therefore illegal to use within 200 feet of a public road. Both parties stipulated the traps were within 200 feet of a public highway.
However, the discussion turned toward if a snare was considered larger than the No. 1 Newhouse trap and the vague language in the law.
Glasson said the legislature “says one thing and it excludes the other.”
Hansen, a Republican from Sparks, was elected Assembly speaker after the mid-term elections on Nov. 4. His position, though, was quickly denounced by numerous groups in Nevada after he penned columns for the Sparks Tribune from 1994-2007 by making questionable remarks about minorities and sexual preferences.
Hansen said in a press release it was an “orchestrated attack” to remove a conservative from a “major role” with the state.