To kill a bald eagle and a rough-legged hawk

United States v. Bertucci, No. 14-3570 (8th Cir. July 23, 2015).

Pictured here is the rough-legged hawk—also known as the rough-legged falcon or rough-legged buzzard.

Pictured here is the rough-legged hawkalso known as the rough-legged falcon or rough-legged buzzard.

If you kill a bald eagle without the federal government’s permission, you commit a federal crime. The same goes for killing a rough-legged hawk, a migratory bird of prey that winters in the United States and spends its summers in the Canadian tundra. 

Lamar Bertucci pleaded guilty in federal court to the unlawful killing of a bald eagle and a rough-legged hawk. Bertucci was sentenced to eight months in prison, a $6,500 “financial obligation,” and an anger-management course. 

The Eighth Circuit holds that the district court abused its discretion by imposing the $6,500 financial obligation. That amount wasn’t based on reliable evidence, says the court. Plus, the district court intended the $6,500 to be restitution, and restitution isn’t an authorized punishment for the crimes Bertucci committed. 

The court also holds that the district court shouldn’t have imposed an anger-management course. The district court was concerned that Bertucci had been charged with number of violent crimes in state court—but all of those charges had been dismissed. Dismissed state charges can’t justify federal punishment. The district court is directed to resentence Bertucci.