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Walter Palmer’s Odyssey Didn’t Begin With Cecil — Dentist Allegedly Made Habit Of Illegal Hunting

A paper trail and some disturbing photos are shedding more light on much-maligned dentist and big game hunter Walter Palmer. They reveal a history of balking at the law in the name of the hunt, as one Zimbabwean attorney said Palmer likely won’t face severe punishment in the African nation.

ABC News obtained photos of Walter alongside the lifeless body of an enormous black bear he killed in 2006 in Wisconsin. The critical detail behind the photo is that Palmer hunted the bear illegally. (ABC obtained the photos via a Freedom of Information Law request; you can view them here, but they may be disturbing to some)

And he actively lied about and was charged criminally for the act.

Palmer had obtained the proper permissions to hunt black bear in one Wisconsin county, but he headed over to another county in another state — where he hadn’t obtained a permit — and shot the animal there, the New York Daily News added.

The kill took place 40 miles away from the permitted area. Almost immediately Walter Palmer started telling fibs about the hunt, even though it was witnessed by two bear guides, said U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil. He intervened because Walter shot the animal in Minnesota.

“As soon as the bear was killed, Palmer and the three guys he was with — guides — they agreed they would lie about it. He was lying to us. He was offering to pay, it turns out, about $20,000 to keep the others who were in the hunt, to have them lie, so that’s a fairly aggressive cover-up.”

The bear guides told the truth, and two years later, Walter pleaded guilty to felony charges for lying to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In an obviously less severe misdeed, he fished without a license in Minnesota in 2003, which is technically a crime. He was convicted for a misdemeanor.

By now everyone knows about Palmer’s admitted killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, in which, once again, Walter said he obtained the appropriate permissions (and paid a handsome $50,000) to hunt a lion. But once again, he allegedly slipped onto a farm near the Hwange National Park and shot Cecil there. The farm owner has been charged with poaching.

Though in the U.S., Cecil’s death has met with outrage, Zimbabweans have been less sympathetic. And even though many are calling for Walter to be extradited for prosecution there and the hunting guide has also been charged, Palmer likely wouldn’t face stiff fines, the guide’s attorney told Express UK this week.

That guide, Theo Bronkhorst, may only face a small fine or at most, a year in prison, said Bronkhorst’s attorney, Givemore Mvhiring.

“Mr Palmer would be more of a free man in Zimbabwe than he currently is in America. There is much sympathy here for the dentist in Zimbabwe.”

In fact, Mvhiring said he can’t find a law under which he can charge Walter, so there would be “no point” extraditing him.

While there may be no repercussions under Zimbabwean law, the Lacey Act — which protects endangered species like Cecil — may offer stiffer penalties of five years in jail and $20,000 in fines.

[Photo Courtesy Adam Bettcher/Getty Images]