Date: 11/1/19 11:57 am From: Mark Pethke <mdpethke...> Subject: [LABIRD-L] Whooping Crane killer pled guilty, sentenced
This morning I attended the court hearing in Lafayette in the Federal District Court for the Western District of Louisiana for Gilvin Aucoin, Jr., 53 years of age, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Migratory Bird Act for his July 2018 shooting and killing of a whooping crane in Evangeline Parish. Aucoin pled guilty before Federal Magistrate Judge Carol Whitehurst, and faced a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment and a $15,000.00 fine. Magistrate Whitehurst considered memos submitted by both the defense and the government and noted that she received a number of letters from conservation groups including the International Crane Foundation, the Louisiana Ornithological Society, Orleans Audubon, and the Louisiana Chapter of the National Audubon Society. She admonished Aucoin that he had committed a significant offense and noted the great expense and care involved in raising whooping cranes, that whooping cranes mate for life, and that she was particularly struck by the fact that the dead bird's female mate had been greatly distressed by his absence. She sentenced Aucoin to two years probation, waived a fine due to his indigent status, and required him to complete 120 hours of community service, preferably in a program devoted to animal conservation or shelters, to be supervised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Aucoin also must complete a hunting education course through the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and is prohibited from hunting or fishing during his term of supervision.
Aucoin's relatively light sentence resulted from his status as a first offender. It developed that this is Aucoin's first encounter with law enforcement, that he is on Social Security disability, and that he and his wife are responsible for raising his two orphaned grandchildren. Aucoin admitted to a sixth grade education. He many times referred to the shooting as a tragic mistake, though his public defender on at least two occasions told the court that no one should be shooting at anything if they're not sure what it is. For what it's worth, Aucion's remorse seemed sincere.
A number of persons from conservation organizations were present for sentencing, a presence that was noted by the judge, and included Katie Barnes from Audubon of Louisiana, Joan Garvey and Mark Meunier from Orleans Audubon, Lizzie Condon and Anna Turkett from the International Crane Foundation, two representatives from a Lafayette canoeing club, and a representative from the LDWF.