MADISON, WIS. – Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Robert Peters, 53, and Steven Reindahl, 55, both of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Madison to hindering a federal grand jury investigation by providing false testimony about a January 2017 Montana mountain lion hunt. This charge carries maximum penalties of six months in prison, a $50,000 fine, and five years of probation.
A third man, David Johnson, 31, Barnes, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty to shooting a mountain lion in 2017 without a Montana hunting license, and conspiring with Darren Johnson to transport the illegally taken mountain lion from Montana to Wisconsin in violation of the Lacey Act. Each of these charges carries maximum penalties of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, and five years of probation.
The charges against Darren Johnson, 52, Deer Park, Wisconsin, remain pending, and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. David Johnson and Darren Johnson are not related.
At the plea hearing, the government provided the court with a summary of the evidence that it would have introduced had the case gone to trial.
On January 6, 2017, Darren and David Johnson, Bob Peters and Steve Reindahl were in Mosby, Montana hunting mountain lions with their dogs. That morning, the dogs treed a mountain lion. Only Darren Johnson and Steve Reindahl had valid licenses to hunt mountain lions.
Despite not having a valid license, David Johnson used Darren Johnson’s rifle to shoot and kill the mountain lion, and Darren Johnson took out his tag and tagged the lion. According to witness testimony, Darren Johnson told the group that everyone needed to stick to the story that Darren Johnson killed the mountain lion. On January 10, 2017, all four men drove back from Montana to Wisconsin, and Darren Johnson and Steve Reindahl transported the mountain lion hide. A few days later, Darren Johnson dropped off the hide at David Johnson’s home.
In late May 2018, Bob Peters and Steve Reindahl were served with grand jury subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury on June 21, 2018, in Madison regarding the 2017 mountain lion hunt. On Sunday June 17, 2018, Darren and David Johnson, Robert Peters, and Steve Reindahl met at Peter’s home in Turtle Lake to talk about the upcoming grand jury session. At the Sunday meeting, Darren Johnson allegedly told everyone to stick to the story that he killed the Montana mountain lion on January 6, 2017, and that the agents did not have any proof to say otherwise.
On June 21, 2018, Bob Peters and Steve Reindahl appeared before the grand jury. Later, Peters and Reindahl admitted that they lied to the grand jury and agreed to cooperate and tell the truth. They recanted their prior testimony and explained that David Johnson killed the mountain lion and Darren Johnson tagged it and told everyone he killed it and they all needed to stick to that story. Both men explained that they were told by Darren Johnson at the meeting in Turtle Lake not to tell the truth to the grand jury.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker scheduled sentencing hearings for all three on February 26, 2019, beginning at 10:30 a.m.
The charges against these men were the result of an investigation conducted by special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement, and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Graber.