Yurok Chairman Rejects Plea Deal that Would Prohibit Possession of Firearms

Yurok Tribal Chairman, Thomas O’Rourke speaks at a signing ceremony for the Klamath River settlements in Salem, Ore. in February 2010./TRT file photo

By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune

Yurok Tribal Chairman, Thomas Patrick O’Rourke went into Superior Court Judge, Marilyn Miles’ nearly empty courtroom last Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 planning to take a plea deal.
Instead, he left with a set of trial dates.

O’Rourke initially pleaded not guilty to two counts resulting from an incident that happened nearly a year ago in Humboldt County.

He was charged with unlawful use of artificial light, a Fish and Game Code misdemeanor violation.

He was also charged with permitting another to shoot from a vehicle, another misdemeanor violation of the penal code.

His son, Eugene Allen O’Rourke faces the same charges and will stand trial in the coming months as well.

First, O’Rourke addressed the court and asked to waive his right to an attorney.

Miles said he had the right to do so, but she added that defendants who choose to represent themselves do not receive any special treatment throughout the court proceedings.

“You are treated as if you are an attorney,” she said. “You must follow all of the rules of the court as if you were an attorney. There are no special accommodations.”

O’Rourke said he understood and wished to proceed without an attorney, largely because he chose to accept a plea deal offered by the prosecution which would effectively stop trial proceedings.

“I wish to change my plea,” he said.

The prosecution said the desired terms of the deal, if all parties agreed, would be a court fine and two years of probation.

O’Rourke agreed to the terms of the deal saying the case had taken up too much of his time. Time, he said, he can’t afford to lose.

Miles reviewed out loud the maximum penalties for such crimes: She said the Fish and Game code violation carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and the penal code violation carries a penalty of up to one year in jail. She also said a conviction could prohibit O’Rourke from possessing a firearm for 10 years.

Miles, again, thinking out loud, rummaged through the penal code and said, “Ah-ha, yes, by law a conviction would prohibit you from possessing a firearm for 10 years.”

O’Rourke quickly retracted his earlier offering to plead guilty and to represent himself in lieu of an attorney.

“I can’t agree to that. I get regular threats on my life,” he said.

Miles said some people who hunt find it difficult to accept such a punishment.

O’Rourke was assigned a public defender. A series of pre-trial and trial dates from late February through late March were assigned.

O’Rourke was encouraged by his attorney to refrain from speaking with anybody about the case until the trial is over.

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PREVIOUS (PublishedFebruary 12, 2013)

Yurok Tribal Chairman to Stand Trial for Spotlighting

Yurok Tribal Chairman, Thomas Patrick O’Rourke Sr., will stand trial for two counts of misdemeanor crimes involving unlawful use of artificial light and permitting another to shoot from a vehicle.

The incident occurred on April 18, 2012 within Humboldt County. The trial will be held in Superior Court of California County of Humboldt on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013.

According to court documents, Eugene Allen O’Rourke will be tried at the same time for misdemeanor crimes arising from the April 18, 2012 incident.

The first count accused by the prosecution: On or about April 18. 2012, in the above named judicial district, the crime of unlawful use of artifical light, in violation of Fish and Game Code Section 2005 (b), a misdemeanor, was committed by Thomas Patrick O’Rourke Sr., who did unlawfully throw or cast the rays of any spotlight, headlight, or other artificial light on any highway or in any field, woodland, or forest where game mammals, fur-bearing mammal, or nongame mammals are commonly found, or upon any game mammal, fur bearing mammal, or nongame mammal, while having in his or her possession or under his or her control any firearm or weapon with which that mammal could be killed, even though the mammal is not killed, injured, shot at, or otherwise pursued.

The second count accused by the prosecution: On or about April 18, 2012, in the above named judicial district, the crime of permitting another to shoot from a vehicle, in violation of Penal Code Section 26100(b), a misdemeanor, was committed by Thomas Patrick O’Rourke Sr., who did unlawfully and knowingly permit another to discharge a firearm from a vehicle which he/she owned and drove.

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Date
February 22nd, 2013

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