President Bush recently granted two of his infrequent pardons to brothers in Colorado Springs. Their transgressions? Misdeanor sales of mounted owls.

Jerry and Thomas Moldenhauer sold migratory birds to an undercover Colorado Department of Wildlife officer in 1992 and 1993, court documents show, violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which prohibits the possession or sale of migratory birds, dead or alive, as well as their feathers, eggs or nests. Each man received three years of probation and a $1,000 fine.

I’m reading this article, shaking my head, thinking, well it must have been a one-time occurrence. Not quite.

According to federal court documents, in 1992 an informant told the Department of Wildlife that Thomas Moldenhauer owned numerous mounted migratory birds and had tried to sell them. Later that year, an undercover DOW officer went to Moldenhauer’s house, where Moldenhauer offered to sell him a mounted great horned owl for $65, court documents show. The officer and two other undercover officers returned a few months later and found about two dozen more mounts of migratory birds, including a scaup and a great blue heron. ….Six months later, DOW officers returned to Thomas Moldenhauer’s house, and together they went to his brother Jerry’s house, where Jerry showed them a mounted Canada goose in his kitchen. Officers bought it for $150, court documents show. Jerry Moldenhauer also showed officers about 40 mounted migratory birds in his basement, including a golden eagle and several owls, court documents show.

Next, I’m thinking, the brothers probably didn’t know it was illegal. Wrong again. On yet another occasion,

The officers bought three birds from him for $230 – including a great horned owl and a red-tailed hawk – and Moldenhauer told them not to tell anyone where they bought the birds, court documents show.

Now, I’m even more puzzled. Are the brothers really old, about to die and in fear that they won’t go to heaven with a misdemeanor on their record? That’s about the only possibility I haven’t discounted yet.

Moldenhauer told the officers he collected the birds before shooting them became illegal, according to court documents. Owning and selling them has been illegal since 1918, however.

Anyone shooting birds before 1918 has got to be over the age of 90 — probably closer to 100. If dying without a criminal record, even a misdemeanor, is that important to them, it’s fine with me. Good for President Bush for showing mercy. Now, can he please show the same to those who can’t get jobs because of an old felony conviction with decades left to live and families to feed? And, by the way, be careful about owls. Here’s another federal misdemeanor that’s still on the books:

Whoever, except as authorized under rules and regulations issued by the Secretary, knowingly and for profit manufactures, reproduces, or uses the character “Woodsy Owl”, the name “Woodsy Owl”, or the associated slogan, “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

[Cross posted at]