A judge has denied a defense motion to suppress evidence vital to prosecution of two law enforcement and corrections officers charged with illegal bear killing in the Book Cliffs.
As of Friday , the defense had yet to respond to the memorandum decision of Judge Bruce K. Halliday, Seventh Circuit Court, on behalf of former Moab police detective Douglas R. Morck and Arthur J. Hobbs, formerly probation and parole officer in Moab.Hobbs and Morck were arrested and cited last May by officers of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on Class A misdemeanor charges of illegal taking and possession of protected wildlife. Both face penalties of up to $1,000 and/or a year in jail on each of the two charges.
The men allegedly shot and skinned two black bears near the Weaver Reservoir in the Book Cliff mountains over the Memorial Day weekend. Both have pled not guilty to the charges. Since the incident, Morck has resigned from the Moab police force and found work in Oregon. Hobbs was temporarily suspended then transferred in June to Salt Lake City where he was reinstated by the Utah Department of Corrections.
Combined trial for both suspects, originally set for Aug. 14, was continued pending outcome of the motion to suppress, filed by defense attorney Loni F. DeLand, of McRae & DeLand in Salt Lake.
In a court hearing on pretrial motions last August and written arguments submitted to the court in October, DeLand contended that bear hides and other evidence of alleged criminal activity was illegally seized by officers without a search warrant.
But Halliday concluded in a ruling filed Dec. 4 that officers properly conducted a warrantless search and seizure of Morck's vehicle after the suspects were arrested the night of May 25.
The court concluded that probable cause had been established that a crime involving the vehicle had occurred, and that a warrantless search was necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence.