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United States of America v. James Albert Wilde

October 11, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES ALBERT WILDE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scott A. Oravec United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

(Trial by Court)

This case was tried before the court on a four count information charging James Albert Wilde with Interfering with an Agency Function in violation of 36 C.F.R. §2.32(a)(1), Violating a Lawful Order in violation of 36 C.F.R. §2.32(a)(2), Disorderly Conduct in violation of 36 C.F.R. §2.34(a)(1), and Operating an Unregistered Boat, in violation of 36 C.F.R. §3.2(b), AS 05.25.055(a) & (d) & AS 05.25.090(b)(2). These offenses were alleged to occur on or about September 16, 2010 within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.*fn1 Upon due consideration of the evidence and arguments of the parties, the court finds that the government has met its burden of proof as to Counts 1, 2, and 4, but not as to Count 3.

A trial was conducted. The following government witnesses provided testimony: National Park Service (NPS) Ranger Andrew Joseph Dallemolle, NPS Ranger Benjamin Grodjesk, NPS Ranger Scott Sample, Ms. Louis Flynn, and Mr. Joel Cusick. The following defense witnesses provided testimony: Mrs. Hannelore Wilde, Mr. Fredrick Schenk, NPS Ranger Scott Sample, Mr. Craig Compeau and Mr. James Wilde. The court considered government exhibits 1-18, 20-25, 27, and 30-34. The court considered defense exhibits B, C, H, and I. The court received written closing arguments from government and defense. Both sides provided responses to the opposing arguments.

FINDINGS OF FACT

On September 16, 2010, James Albert Wilde, his wife Hannelore Wilde, and mutual friend Fredrick Schenk took Mr. Wilde's 21 foot Woolridge riverboat on the Yukon River for a hunting trip. The vessel was heavily loaded with supplies, including provisions and weapons. Mrs. Hannelore Wilde and Mr. Fred Shenk were passengers, while Mr. Wilde piloted the boat. The group was headed to Slaven's Cabin at Coal Creek, where they planned to rest for the evening. National Park Service Rangers Andrew Joseph Dallemolle (hereafter Dallemolle), a seasonal U.S. Park Ranger in his first season on the Yukon Charley River, and Benjamin Brach Grodjesk (hereafter Grodjesk) worked on the Yukon Charley River. On September 16, 2010, wearing park ranger uniforms, Dallemolle and Grodjesk started out from Slaven's cabin in their boat at approximately 1:30 pm in the afternoon. Grodjesk operated his boat on that area of the Yukon River for the previous two and a half to three months prior to September 16, 2010 and in the previous year, operating a boat patrol. The purpose of their trip was to check boats to make sure they were in compliance with applicable regulations; including boating safety, hunting and fishing regulations. Grodjesk was piloting the Rangers' boat.

The Rangers contacted one vessel, conducted their check, and then continued down the river. They saw another boat coming towards them from down river (headed up river) at approximately 3:00pm which was later determined as Mr. Wilde's boat. While still several hundred yards away, in the main channel, the Rangers brought their boat to an idle and let their boat drift in the river until Mr. Wilde's boat got closer. When the boats were between 200 and 300 yards apart, Dallemolle went on the bow of his vessel, put out the boat's bumpers, and signaled to Mr. Wilde's boat with his hands for Mr. Wilde's boat to come toward the Ranger's boat. Mr. Wilde did as instructed and brought his boat toward the Ranger's boat until it was within approximately 50 yards. The Ranger then signaled to Mr. Wilde to slow down by waving his arm downward. Mr. Wilde's boat 'powered down' and slowly approached the Rangers' boat, coming to within 20 to 30 feet from the Rangers' boat. Mr. Wilde's boat was idling at this time.

Dallemolle yelled to the only person he could clearly see, a passenger (later identified as Mr. Fred Schenk) on the back of Mr. Wilde's boat. Dallemolle yelled to Mr. Shenk "tell the driver to come to an idle. National Park Service, we're going to do a vehicle inspection." Mr. Shenk did not say anything in response, but just took pictures of the Rangers' boat.*fn2 However, a man, later identified as Mr. Wilde, then opened a front window hatch from the cabin on the bow of his boat and stepped partially onto the bow of his boat. Mr. Wilde's boat coasted under its own momentum, with its engine idling, towards the Rangers' vessel until it was within approximately 20 feet away, with the Ranger's boat being pointed straight at Mr. Wilde's boat which was approaching.*fn3 Dallemolle noticed that Mr. Wilde's boat did not have proper registration decals on the boat. Mr. Wilde said "What the hell do you want?" or words to that effect.*fn4

Dallemolle responded "National Park Service, we're going to do a quick vehicle inspection. Shut off your engine and we'll come to you."*fn5 Mr. Wilde yelled back "Like hell", stepped back into his cabin, slammed his door shut and immediately walked to the stern of his boat, where he was fully visible to Dallemolle. Mr. Wilde then yelled to Dallemolle "You fucking cock suckers. I'm not stopping." Mr. Wilde also said that he was loaded down and that he would not get back up on step. Dallemolle responded "We'll have you on your way in a few minutes." Mr. Wilde abruptly responded by yelling "Fuck this." Mr. Wilde then went back to his cabin, sat down at the helm, powered up the vehicle and began moving his boat forward. Mr. Shenk lost his footing and nearly fell out of the boat because of the momentum of starting the boat, however Mr. Shenk was able to brace himself and did not fall out of the boat.

Mr. Wilde's boat moved faster and within ten seconds was back on step, continuing moving up river. The Rangers put power to their engine to pursue Mr. Wilde's boat. The Rangers' boat turned behind Mr. Wilde's boat to draw a parallel course on the starboard side. Within approximately ten seconds the Ranger's boat was on step and within twenty seconds the Rangers caught up to Mr. Wilde's boat. The Ranger's boat was approximately ten to twenty feet off the starboard side of Mr. Wilde's boat traveling in a parallel course, heading up river. On a parallel course, the Rangers' boat lined up to Mr. Wilde's boat so Dallemolle was in line with the window of Mr. Wilde, sitting while Mr. Wilde piloted his boat. Dallemolle gestured several times to Mr. Wilde, who made eye contact several times with Dallemolle, for Mr. Wilde to slow down or stop. Dallemolle yelled repeatedly at Mr. Wilde "Stop" and "Come down" and attempting alternative hand gestures to indicate he wanted Mr. Wilde to stop. This continued for approximately twenty to thirty seconds. Though the Rangers' boat was keeping pace with Mr. Wilde's boat, the Rangers' boat was behind Mr. Wilde's boat on a parallel course at approximately a 'five o'clock' position. While Dallemolle was still continuing the hand gestures and yelling, Mr. Wilde made eye contact with Dallemolle. The Rangers perceived that Mr. Wilde's boat turned abruptly at a shallow angle forcing the Rangers' boat to veer away. However, Grodjesk maneuvered the Rangers' boat away from Mr. Wilde's boat because the Rangers' boat was somewhat behind Mr. Wilde's boat on that parallel course.*fn6

During this time the boats were traveling at approximately between twenty and thirty miles per hour. The Ranger brought their boat back to a parallel course with Mr. Wilde's boat, but further away from Mr. Wilde's boat than before. Dallemolle again lined up his boat across from Mr. Wilde, so that Mr. Wilde and Dallemolle could see each other. Dallemolle continued yelling at Mr. Wilde to stop and made hand gestures consistent with his request. The motors were very loud however Dallemolle again saw Mr. Wilde make eye contact with him several times. Dallemolle responded by pulling out his pistol and pointing it directly at Mr. Wilde through the window.*fn7 Mr. Wilde kept driving in the same path for another twenty to thirty seconds at the same speed. Dallemolle then went to the rear of his boat and obtained a shotgun and charged it. With the shotgun in hand, Dallemolle went back to the bow of the boat and raised the shotgun and pointed it directly at Mr. Wilde. Mr. Wilde saw Dallemolle raising the shotgun and then turned his boat very sharply, toward the bank of the river. Mr. Wilde's boat slowed as it approached land and beached on the bank of the river. The Rangers' boat followed and initially turned wide, making a wide 'S' turn, until Mr. Wilde's boat was beached. The Rangers' boat crossed the wake of Mr. Wilde's boat, then moved towards the shore. As the Rangers' boat approached the shore, Dallemolle yelled loudly three times to the occupants of Mr. Wilde's boat directions "Leave your firearms in the boat. Keep your hands up. Exit the boat and sit down on the bank." The last time Dallemolle yelled his instructions, the Ranger boat was within 15 feet of Mr. Wilde's boat and Mr. Wilde was already on shore. The Rangers' boat landed between ten and twenty feet up river from Mr. Wilde's boat approximately ten seconds after Mr. Wilde's boat landed on the shore. Dallemolle left the Rangers' boat as soon as his boat touched land. Grodjesk shut off his motor within a second of landing and then came out of the helm, through the cabin to set their boat's anchor. At this time, Mr. Wilde was already on land, having exited his boat and initially put down the anchor. Mr. Shenk was in the bow of the boat. Mr. Wilde just began walking toward Dallemolle and the Rangers' boat. Mr. Wilde walked toward Dallemolle with his arms about six inches out to each side and his fists clenched. Mr. Wilde started walking in the direction of the Rangers' boat when Dallemolle was about to land. Mr. Wilde was yelling at Dallemolle "Fucking cock suckers" and "What are you doing?". Grodjesk set the anchor for the Ranger's boat and then came around to the right side of Dallemolle. Grodjesk yelled "Stop, police, stop" or words to that effect several times. At the same time, Mr. Shenk exited Mr. Wilde's boat, went to the anchor and further secured the anchor to the shoreline.

As Mr. Wilde continued to close the distance between himself and Dallemolle, the Ranger took two steps backward in order to maintain a constant distance from Mr. Wilde. Dallemolle told Mr. Wilde to "Stop. Police. Stop right there." Grodjesk yelled to Mr. Wilde to "get on the ground." When Mr. Wilde refused to get on the ground and kept walking toward the Rangers, Grodjesk tried to restrain Mr. Wilde by grabbing Mr. Wilde by the arm and taking him to the ground. Mr. Schenk started to get up from his seat in the boat, and Dallemolle instructed him to remain where he was, an order which Mr. Schenk complied with immediately. Dallemolle laid his shotgun on the ground and began to assist Grodjesk. Grodjesk attempted to grab Mr. Wilde's wrists, but Mr. Wilde drew his arms into his chest. Grodjesk ordered Mr. Wilde to "stop resisting" several times. Dallemolle sat on Mr. Wilde's legs to prevent him from kicking Grodjesk. Mr. Wilde still had his hands underneath his body and refused to allow himself to be handcuffed. Grodjesk drew his taser, and ordered Mr. Wilde to surrender his hands or be 'tased'. Dallemolle stood up, pulled the front probe cartridge of his taser, and displayed it to Mr. Wilde. As soon as Mr. Wilde saw the taser, he stopped resisting and permitted himself to be handcuffed. Once Mr. Wilde was handcuffed, Mr. Wilde laid on his side breathing heavily continuing to swear and repeat 'you do not have the authority to do this' several times. Grodjesk conducted a search incident to arrest of Mr. Wilde's person and asked him medical questions to make sure Mr. Wilde was all right.

After Mr. Wilde had been arrested, Dallemolle wrote down the hull identification number from Mr. Wilde's vessel, and ran it through the Denali Dispatch Center for the National Park Service. The Dispatcher faxed Dallemolle a printout of the Alaska Public Information Network (ASPIN) records for the hull number. The fax report indicated that "no match" was found to the hull identification number on Mr. Wilde's boat. Grodjesk also conducted a search of Mr. Wilde and verified that he was not injured. Dallemolle took control of Mr. Wilde's vessel, driving it to Slaven's Cabin. Later, they transported Mr. Wilde's vessel, as well as the passengers, to Circle.

DISCUSSION

Count 1 (Interfering with Agency Function)

Mr. Wilde is charged with unlawfully interfering with a government agent who was engaged in an official duty in violation of 16 U.S.C. § 3 and 36 C.F.R. § 2.32(a)(1).

Title 16 U.S.C. § 3 provides the Secretary of the Interior with the authority to make regulations that govern lands under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service (NPS) -- regulations like 36 C.F.R. §2.32(a)(1) See, e.g. Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288 (1984); United States v. Nachtigal, 507 U.S. 1 (1993). In turn, 36 C.F.R. § 2.32(a)(1) prohibits "[t]hreatening, resisting, intimidating, or intentionally interfering with a government employee or agent engaged in an official duty, or on account of the performance of an official duty." Although it is not explicitly provided in the statute, the Ninth ...


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