BOZEMAN — A former U.S. Senate candidate accused of buying less-costly in-state hunting and fishing licenses when he was not a Montana resident pleaded guilty Wednesday to two misdemeanors as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Troy Downing acknowledged obtaining resident hunting licenses as a non-resident and unlawfully procuring a license or permit, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported . Those offenses happened between 2011 and 2016.
The pleas came less than a week after a motion to dismiss some of the charges was denied.
Downing, who unsuccessfully ran for this year's Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in November, was ordered to pay a $2,110 fine and any court fees. He also must forfeit any hunting, fishing or trapping licenses issued by the state for the next 18 months and serve a one-year deferred sentence.
"These offenses, obviously, could have added up to a lot of forfeiture of your privileges, so, in essence, 18 months is not a bad situation for you at this point," Gallatin County Justice Court Judge Bryan Adams said.
Downing argued that the case was based on mistakes made by accountants who prepared his taxes listing him as a California resident. He said he was happy to be made aware of those mistakes but disappointed that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials were not more timely in notifying him.
"If, after the first purchase, FWP would have called my Montana home phone, knocked on my door, or sent me a letter to my Montana address, I would have quickly resolved the problem and we wouldn't be here today," he said.
Investigators have characterized Downing's time in Montana as "seasonal at best" during the years at issue.
The investigation into Downing's residency began in 2013 when the Montana Department of Revenue asked Fish, Wildlife & Parks to look into whether he met residency requirements for Montana hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. The revenue department said it believed Downing had illegally purchased resident licenses.
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