Bison advocate convicted of obstructing peace officer while filming hazing

Folks might recall when Dan Brister was injured and arrested last winter while videoing the Montana DOL haze bison north of West Yellowstone, Montana. He is project director for the Buffalo Field Campaign.

He had a jury trial and was convicted of obstructing a peace officer after a one-day trial in Gallatin County Justice Court. He was fined $585 and sentenced to six months probation after the jury found him guilty. I guess that will keep him safely away while the DOL does its dirty work this winter.

Story in the Bozeman Chronicle.






  1. Buffaloed Avatar

    Total and absolute B.S.

  2. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    I’ll second that comment and add that this is yet another fine example of the justice system…….

  3. Jon Way Avatar

    Is it bad for me to secretly wish for the DOL and cooperating agencies to go to slaughter before the next bison does?

  4. Dan Brister Avatar
    Dan Brister

    It was definitely an eye-opening day in court. The prosecution started the morning by dropping my resisting charge, which sounds good, but he did it because it was an obviously trumped up charge and to prevent us from mentioning or showing video of Montana Highway Patrol officer Cox becoming enraged, assaulting me, and splitting open my head. Things were stacked against me with the former highway patrolman justice of the peace siding with the prosecution at nearly every turn.

    My main witness, an independent photographer who snapped more than 90 photos of the incident, was prevented from testifying.

    Under cross examination I was asked by the prosecuting attorney, Matthew Lowy, what year Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) was listed on the FBI’s list of domestic terrorist organizations. While our objection to this underhanded questioning–aimed at tainting the jury’s opinion of BFC–was upheld, jurors heard the question and it seemed to have the desired effect.

    The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half, then sent a message to the attorneys asking for clarification on how, exactly, I had committed the crime of obstruction. The jury was told they’d have to work it out on their own, and five minutes later they agreed on a guilty verdict.

    I was given a six month suspended jail sentence, meaning I have to stay out of trouble for the next six months or spend six months in jail. As was mentioned in the Chronicle article, I was fined $585.

    Gallatin County Justice Court is not a court of record and the Justice of the Peace who presided over my trial does not have a legal education or background. I have ten days to file an appeal for a new trial in district court, and am considering my options.

    Thanks for all your support,

    Dan Brister

  5. be Avatar

    thanks to Dan for his advocacy and for his sacrifice given this BS. this conviction illustrates the grip that this industry has on the system there ~ and around the West – but Dan’s efforts are helping to change it and inspire others to be involved.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I don’t think so Jon, as you are speaking metaphorically, but then my view of Montana DOL is that they are (for the 100th time), plain and simple, a bunch of thugs for the cattle industry.

    To Dan Brister, thanks for your post about the kangaroo court that convicted you.

  7. Chuck Avatar

    I was there the day after that happened and was talking to the fine folks with the Buffalo field campaign and they told my wife and I about what had happened and I was shocked. The one gentleman that I was talking to said I should be careful about packing my camera with the big telephoto lens that the officials might start harrassing me.
    Thank you so much Dan for all your hard work and sacrifice.

  8. sal Avatar

    Gosh Dan,

    Sorry it went so obviously “scripted”.

    I think you should appeal and request a real day in real court.

    At least you know we care what happens and support your work…

    Hope that’s some consolation.

  9. Jerry Avatar

    Dan….What was the reason given for not allowing the photographerto testify?
    BFC on FBI terror list….GEEZ!! Problem is that just the mention of that and 50% of Montanans believe it.

  10. Jerry Avatar

    Dan….What was the reason given for not allowing the photographer to testify?
    BFC on FBI terror list….GEEZ!! Problem is that just the mention of that and 50% of Montanans believe it.

  11. Dan Brister Avatar
    Dan Brister


    The prosecutor argued that my attorney was late to list the photographer as a witness and that he (the prosecutor) was unable to contact her before the trial.

    After the trial we asked the prosecutor for his source on the FBI terrorism claim. He said that that is what he “heard.” I know he’s heard of heresay too but it didn’t stop him from throwing that cheap shot.

  12. TH Avatar

    Is there anyway of suing him for slander by calling the BFC a domestic terrorist organization?

  13. Dan Brister Avatar
    Dan Brister

    I’ve appealed my case do district court and have contacted MT ACLU regarding the prosecutor’s insinuation that BFC is considered by the FBI to be a domestic terrorist organization.

    Thank you all for your support and encouragement. I will keep you posted as things unfold.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I’m glad this is going to appeal.

    Gallatin County seems to be a place you can’t get a fair trial on issues like these.

    Attempts to legally harm people by suggesting they are terrorists, or affiliated with them, is a tactic that has to be fought will all our might.

    Everyone can play that game once it starts. Should the Democrats gain full control of the national government and act like the current Administration, right wingers could be targeted instead of those who dissent from Bush policy.

    The same is true locally.

  15. jerry black Avatar
    jerry black

    I admire your courage, Dan. It’s time that the “good ole boy” system of “justice” out here is exposed.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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