Guilty verdicts in Mapleton elk case; former Boulder officer convicted in death and cover-up

Trophy elk shot, killed New Year's Day 2013

BOULDER, Colo - It was a killing that outraged not just a neighborhood, but an entire community.

Now, justice has been served. A jury of five men and seven women found former Boulder Police Officer Sam Carter guilty on all nine counts related to the New Year’s Day 2013 killing of “Big Boy,” a trophy elk in Boulder’s Mapleton Hill neighborhood.

Jurors deliberated just four hours before returning their verdict.

Carter was convicted on four felonies -- one count of attempting to influence a public official; one count of forgery and two counts of tampering with physical evidence.

He was also convicted of five misdemeanor charges: official misconduct, aggravated illegal possession of wildlife, conspiracy to commit illegal possession of wildlife, hunting big game out of season and unlawful use of an electronic communication device to unlawfully take wildlife.

When asked if he will seek jail time, Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said, “We haven’t decided yet.”

He told 7NEWS that the most important thing to his office was getting a felony conviction against Carter.

“It's very important for the public to know that if a police officer lies and uses their badge and their uniform to lie and mislead the public, we will go after them and hold them accountable and prevent them from being a police officer," Garnett said.

During closing arguments, prosecutors argued Carter shot the animal so he could mount its head on a wall as a trophy.

Carter's defense attorney argued he "euthanized" the animal because it had become too domesticated and was aggressive. He said he did it in the interest of public safety and never tried to mask his actions.

The defense also argued the state did not prove Carter had a duty to report what happened and called the investigation shoddy and completely "outcome based."

But Garnett said the case was about two things.

"It is about an amazing animal," Garnett told jurors during his closing, "and it's about the truth, and how it was handled by a police ... officer who didn't want you to know the truth."

Garnett said the wildlife of Colorado belongs to the public, not to the officer.

"No one individual has the right to say, 'I'm going to kill it, sneak it out of here and then mount it on a wall,'" he said.

Garnett said that officers can kill an elk if there is imminent danger, such as a child being trampled.  That was not the case here, he said.

The DA added that after "Big Boy" was killed, Carter quickly destroyed his messages and got rid of evidence from the elk.

He said Carter held up a damaged antler and told an accomplice, former officer Brent Curnow, that the antler was broken.

Garnett told jurors that, "Curnow said, 'If we can find the broken part of the antler, I could fix it for the mount.' They knew what they were doing."

Following a plea deal last September, Curnow was given a two year deferred sentence, probation and 60 days home detention after admitting guilt to tampering with evidence and possession of wildlife with a trophy elk designation.

When asked if Curnow’s testimony was important to this case, Garnett said prosecutors are cautious about putting someone on the stand who has been convicted themselves.

Carter declined comment as he was leaving the courtroom.

He will be sentenced on Aug. 29.

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