ST. ANTHONY, Idaho (AP) Former elk rancher Rex Rammell has been found not guilty of obstructing a police officer by refusing to get off a dead elk.
The verdict is a victory for property rights and will help his $1.3 million lawsuit against Idaho state officials, Rammell said.
"I'm sure it won't hurt," he told the Post Register. The six-person Fremont County jury returned the verdict in 30 minutes Friday after listening to closing arguments of the two-day trial in 7th District Court.
An estimated 160 domesticated elk escaped in August from the Chief Joseph private hunting reserve operated by Rammell near Ashton in eastern Idaho.
On Sept. 7, then-Idaho Gov. Jim Risch, now lieutenant governor, signed an executive order for the elk to be killed, saying they could spread disease and pollute the gene pool of wild elk.
Rammell was charged in October with obstructing a police officer after he refused law enforcement orders to get off an elk that had been shot.
Rammell said he had been worried about the verdict because Senior District Judge Jerry Meyers only allowed evidence relating to the obstruction charge, and not property rights, which Rammell considered his main defense.
"It shows how great this country is that (jurors) were able to see my rights even though they were not allowed to hear them," Rammell said.
He filed a lawsuit against the state last week claiming state officials acted maliciously in dealing with his escaped elk.