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12-1-11 Update - Jeff Foiles has begun his prison sentence at the Marion Federal Prison Work Camp.
Hunting video star Jeff Foiles has made a last minute plea deal with Federal prosecutors, admitting that yes, he broke numerous federal game laws, on numerous occasions, and also instructed other people to break the law on numerous occasions. Foiles' trial, originally scheduled for late January 2011, was set to begin (for real) on July 5th. Or....10 days from now. Of course, if you heard Jeff's PR statement after the plea deal, you'd hear that 1 year in federal prison means that he has been "vindicated." I guess federal prison means different things to different people.
I'll write again soon to dissect exactly what Foiles admitted that he did, admitted that his company did, and denied (with government agreement) as part of the plea deal, and see how that stacks up against the penalty he's receiving - reported by Illinois' State Journal Register to be 13 months in Federal Prison and a $100,000 fine.
But right now, let's consider what the words of a man (or a woman) are worth. In my business and my life - and probably yours - they are worth a lot, or they're worth almost nothing. Let's see what Jeff Foiles had to say this past winter, upon hearing of his indictment:
Jeff Foiles an American Sportsman, respects the law relating to regulations of wildlife and hunting, and now faces an indictment (charges) accusing him of acting in violation of that respect.
Now, I'll give you that "respecting the law" does not necessarily mean "obeying the law." So let's just take a tiny look at the plea deal and see in what ways Jeff Foiles "respects the law relating to regulations of wildlife and hunting." (thanks again to the SJ-R for quickly getting and posting these documents!)
1. "If a game warden appeared, the group could claim that the birds had been killed by the guide and/or the cameraman." Wow. Doesn't sound very respectful of the law. I guess party limits aren't the worst game ethics violation a hunter can make.
2. "The defendant falsified and instructed others to falsify" harvest records and game tags. Now wait a second, that seems a little on the edge of "not respectful" of the game laws.
3. "It was also a common practice for the defendant to use information which hunters had left at the Club on prior occasions to cover overbags." Which means if you visited his farm on saturday and then some other hunter killed too many ducks on sunday, Foiles would just enter your name in the log book (a legal document provided to the state!) and say you were there sunday also. Come to think of it, that sounds like complete disrespect of the game laws.
Let's look at his post-indictment statement once more:
Jeff Foiles an American Sportsman, respects the law relating to regulations of wildlife and hunting...
Above are three mild examples (of 15 detailed in the plea agreement) of Foiles' true level of respect documented in the plea deal. In the end, I'm not sure that Jeff Foiles' mind has been changed by what transpired in over 5 years of investigation by two countries and two American states, or this six month court battle that could have resulted in him being banned from hunting for life, fined millions of dollars, his home, vehicles, and belongings seized, and in prison for a dozen or more years. I can't imagine that a year in prison (or whatever he really ends up serving) will change that one way or the other. He's a talented businessman and he'll be back in business as soon as he's legally able to, on all possible fronts.
What's Jeff Foiles' word really worth? Based on what he's admitted in court and what he's said out of court, my personal opinion....well, you can guess what I think (as if that really matters). My guess (as I have not interviewed him to ask him) is that he's just another man who honestly believed that federal game laws did not apply to him when it was inconvenient, and that (I'm still guessing) the biggest crime committed here has been the widespread double-crossing by his employees and partners who took plea deals and immunity deals from the Federales. To my uninformed mind, Foiles appears to be most sorry that he trusted other people, and of course, sorry that he got caught.