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Published August 24, 2010, 09:19 AM

ND farmer appeals deer case to high court

FARGO, N.D. — A deer-shooting case involving Dawson, N.D., rancher Harlan Kleppe that initially was scheduled for an Aug. 18 jury trial has been canceled for the moment. The case now has been appealed directly to the North Dakota Supreme Court and will be heard on a date not yet scheduled, Kleppe’s lawyer says.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — A deer-shooting case involving Dawson, N.D., rancher Harlan Kleppe that initially was scheduled for an Aug. 18 jury trial has been canceled for the moment. The case now has been appealed directly to the North Dakota Supreme Court and will be heard on a date not yet scheduled, Kleppe’s lawyer says.

Attorney Robert V. Bolinske Jr. of Bismarck, N.D., says Kidder County State’s Attorney Jerod Tufte on Aug. 18 agreed to allow a “conditional plea of guilty,” meaning the case can be appealed without going through a county-level trial.

This happened because Tufte on Aug. 17 had filed a motion “in limine,” which would have disallowed Kleppe’s defense.

Kleppe had planned to admit he shot deer last winter — but only to protect his hay property from depredation. Bolinske had planned to use a state statute that allows farmers to shoot “fur-bearing” animals (typically wolves or bears) in defense of property.

District Judge Bruce Romanick had agreed with Tufte, saying the depredation defense wasn’t applicable. “He said I couldn’t talk about that,” Bolinske says of the judge’s ruling. “He said it is a ‘strict liability’ issue, meaning you either did it or you didn’t do it.”

Without the depredation argument, the defense would have been silent. “We would have just sat and looked like fools,” he says. “We’d have liked to have tried it with the defense of protecting his crops and property.”

In a separate but related case, Bolinske is working with a lawyer who is defending Bill Dethloff, a Bismarck feedlot owner, who faces a similar charge of shooting deer. A jury trial set for Oct. 6. Bolinske says Dethloff had planned to a similar defense and the state’s attorneys are collaborating.

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