Ex-officer convicted of killing Mapleton elk dodges prison time, gets probation

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BOULDER, Colo. -- Sam Carter, the former Boulder police officer who was convicted of killing an elk, was sentenced Friday by a Boulder County judge to four years of probation, community service and fined, avoiding the one year of prison time that prosecutors sought.

Carter, 37, was found guilty on June 3 of nine charges related to shooting and killing a trophy elk in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood of Boulder. He will also have to pay $10,200 in fees because of the wildlife convictions.

He was found guilty of attempting to influence a public official, one count of forgery and two counts of tampering with evidence -- all felonies. He was also convicted on first-degree official misconduct, illegal possession of a trophy elk with a Samson Law surcharge, conspiracy to commit illegal possession of wildlife, unlawful taking of a big game animal out of season and unlawful use of an electronic communication device to unlawfully take wildlife.

Carter also received a fine of more than $12,000, 30 days on a work crew and 200 hours of community service.

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett asked Boulder District Judge Patrick Butler in a sentencing memorandum filed this week that Carter be sentenced to one year in prison followed by three years of probation and perform 100 hours of community service, noting Carter's "arrogant" and "flippant" attitude toward his conviction.

RELATED: Sentencing memorandum

"Carter's behavior while on duty as a uniformed police officer was reprehensible and he should be sentenced to the Department of Corrections as recommended by the probation department," Garnett wrote in the memorandum.

At the sentencing hearing, Garnett said prosecutors could have sought a harsher sentence of up to six years in the Department of Corrections, but said one year is "fair and tough" and "sends the right message."

Carter’s attorney, Carrie Slinkyard, said she was disappointed at the recommendation of jail time, saying it was "extreme" and asked the court to look at other options, including intensive supervised probation.

Slinkyard also said sending Carter to prison would not only punish him but also his sons, and that Carter's well-being could be in jeopardy because he is an ex-officer.

Carter, who had free on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond, read a letter saying he takes "full responsibility" and "I live with this incident every day."

"I'm haunted by this incident every minute of every day," he said. "I want to apologize to the citizens of Boulder."

In issuing the sentence, Judge Butler said, "There's no other way to say it, the shooting was reckless, thoughtless and dangerous to the public at large." Butler also noted Carter's past history as a police officer and being a "productive member of sentence."

"Prison sentence not meaningful but would be symbolic," Butler said.

Afterward, Garnett said the sentence was "reasonable," and Carter attorney Marc Colin added it was "well thought out and well reasoned."

Investigators said Carter and fellow officer Brent Curnow killed the elk in January 2013 with little regard for the safety of others in the area. Cellphone records also suggest the two former officers had been plotting to kill the elk for more than a week.

Prosecutors said Carter shot the elk, known as “Big Boy,” on Mapleton Hill while he was on duty. The officer initially told police he shot the elk because he noticed it was hurt, but a necropsy revealed no evidence of a previous injury.

Slinkyard, said Carter put down the animal because it was aggressive.

Curnow received a 60-day home detention sentence for his role in the elk's killing.



  • old guy

    I think anger mgmt. classes and bi-weekly drug and alcohol check for the full probation time is correct. That is what we citizens get for way less serious crimes.

  • Anonymous

    I hope a elk runs out in front of his vehicle causing him to crash. And the elk walking away unharmed. That would be sweet karma

  • Ellen Kessler

    He only apologized because he got caught. Sentences should be as strict as if it were a human he slaughtered in cold blood. A couple of years in jail at the least, and a much healthier fine. Then maybe something permanently tattooed on his head.

  • 13tweeter13

    No integrity, no ethics, no honesty — born of being a member of the law enforcement and criminal justice community in Boulder. He violated the public trust and how do you trust police officers who lie in reports, who cover up misconduct, who are guilty of forgery, who are guilty of tampering with evidence, who are guilty of attempts to influence a public official, as well as other charges related to this “incident.” He’s a convicted felon. Does he still own firearms? He and a fellow law enforcement officer plotted to kill this animal for at least a week and undoubtedly created their “story” over the same period of time (I should have called it a “police report”) to cover up what they knew to be illegal and official misconduct. All in all, the DA’s Office wouldn’t treat John or Jane Q. Public with such lienincy, nor would the judges, but this officer probably is dangerous to those still in “the system,” because he would, by virtue of his job, “know things about people” within the system. Garnett thinks the sentence is fair? Then why isn’t he seeking “fair sentences” for people convicted for similar felonies in Boulder? The judges and the DA’s Office doesn’t seem to care about the safety of others they sentence to prison, nor the fairness of the sentences unless the defendant is “one of their own.”

  • mikerb55

    Now that he’s convicted of numerous felonies, I hope they removed all firearms from his possession. He got off way too easy.

  • PJ

    No jail time and no weekly or multi-weekly probation check-ins. That is a waste of tax payer money, we already have too many non-violent (to humans at least) criminals sitting in the system and taking up our money. In my opinion he should have to wear (and the defendant pays not the state) an ankle monitor for the next 1 yr at least since he dodged actual prison, which puts him on house arrest when he isn’t out there being a productive citizen (work) or a pre-approved activity (doctor, church, etc). They slap those things on people for less serious sentences. He took away the elks freedom in taking its life. Now he should feel what it’s like to have his freedom taken away but with ankle monitor not prison because one costs the tax payers and takes up a spot where we need to put rapists or repeat violent offenders, etc.

  • Marmie

    4 Felony convictions and no jail time? Where’s the “3 strikes you’re out” law? People get put away for life for having a bag of pot. This elk was absolutely NOT aggressive; the “police officer” is the aggressor here. Put him away for life!!!

  • john

    For those of you saying he got off cause he is a cop must not be aware that less than 5% of first time poaching cases actually get jail time

    • Truth

      This wasn’t a poaching case dimwit. He was convicted of four separate felonies. “influence a public official, one count of forgery and two counts of tampering with evidence” Those would put ANY of us in jail.

  • Anonymous

    4 felony convictions (and how many charges that were dismissed?)…but no jail time. Anyone but a cop woud have gone up the river. If there is fear for his safety, put him in Protective Custody. There are many former police officrs in PC in jails and prisons. Oh my, it would also impact his son…so what? Jail impacts the sons of average citizens every day, but no one cares. Welcome to our in-
    justice system!!!!!

  • S.

    He needs to go to jail. He has been convicted of multiple felonies. He absolutely killed a beautiful, innocent animal for no reason, & did every thing he could to cover up his crime. What a pitiful excuse for a man, a father, & a police officer.

  • old guy

    Remember we are dealing with the FREE incampment of Boulder County. Pretty much they do what they want.

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