Internal e-mails show top officials at the governor's office and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks knew that a poaching investigation i n v o l v e d a p r omi n e n t Republican who later went to work for Rep. Denny Rehberg. But the e-mails, released Wednesday in response to a freedom of information request from The Associated Press, show no evidence that political pressure influenced the case. Republican Randy Vogel, now on voluntary leave from his job as state director for Rep. Denny Rehberg, faces four poaching charges stemming from the killing of a young bull elk in Madison County. He has suggested the allegations stem from Democratic attempts to smear Rehberg's name leading up to the fall election. Vogel 's account of the November incident differs sharply from that of game wardens. So far he's produced no evidence to back up claims the case is politically driven. Vogel says he has since sold the hunting rifle he was using that day, which could hamper prosecution efforts. He entered a not guilty plea on the charges on Tuesday in Madison County Justice Court in Virginia City. On Feb. 18, about two weeks before Vogel was served with the violations, a chain of e-mails saying charges were forthcoming passed from the game warden who handled the investigation all the way up to the office of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat.
E-mails: No pressure from Dems in poaching case
Published: Thursday, March 18th, 2010
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