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A Kelso man was sentenced Wednesday to 3 1/2 years in state prison Wednesday for poaching several elk and illegally possessing a gun.

Cowlitz Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning also ordered Kenneth James Farmer, 34, to pay a $14,000 fine to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Warning rejected a defense suggestion that Farmer was poaching to feed his family.

Farmer, who has prior felony convictions, pled guilty in August to nine hunting violations and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Under Wednesday’s plea deal, Farmer received the maximum sentence in exchange for the prosecutor dropping two additional gun charges, said Deputy Prosecutor Amie Hunt.

The WDFW arrested Farmer on Feb. 13 on suspicion of poaching elk in the Toutle Valley. Farmer, who was on probation at the time, was charged in Cowlitz District Court with two counts of illegal hunting of big game in the second degree, two counts of spotlighting big game in the second degree and one count of possession of a loaded firearm.

Then, on Feb. 28, Kelso police arrested Farmer on suspicion of possession of a stolen firearm and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm while investigating a report of a foul smell emanating from a storage unit.

Inside the unit, police found six branched elk antlers with decaying flesh attached, leading prosecutors to charge Farmer with six counts of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game.

Farmer’s criminal history includes a 2003 conviction for drug possession, felony eluding, unlawful possession of a firearm and obstructing a police officer.

In court Wednesday, attorney Kevin Blondin asked for a sentencing delay so Farmer could be present at the birth of his child, which his wife is expected to deliver about Nov. 18. Judge Warning denied the request, saying more than two months had passed since Farmer entered his guilty plea and it was time to move forward.

Blondin argued Farmer was guilty of illegally hunting animals to feed his family out of financial desperation, and that this was not a drug, violent or sex crime. Also, Blondin said, Farmer had stayed out of trouble since his last arrest, working and trying to save money to support his family.

A drug counselor and Farmer’s employer also pled for Warning to delay the sentencing, saying Farmer had grown up and become responsible.

Farmer bowed his shaved head as they spoke, tears streaming down his angular face. He apologized to the court, his family and his boss.

However, Warning remained unmoved. Farmer did not kill the elk to put meat on his family’s table, the judge said. Moreover, Warning said, Farmer’s conduct with stolen firearms and other incidents presented a much different picture than what he was hearing.

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