Janay Brun became a defendant Monday in the federal criminal case she instigated.
Prosecutors announced they have charged Brun, 38, of Arivaca, with prohibited take of a jaguar, an endangered species. It's the same charge they leveled at Brun's one-time co-worker, Emil McCain, who admitted his guilt Friday and was sentenced to five years of probation.
Brun's case is different in that it was her revelation to the Arizona Daily Star in April last year that prompted the federal criminal investigation into the capture, recapture and euthanization of the jaguar known as Macho B.
"That jaguar meant a lot to me, and the fact that I mindlessly participated in this - it's a regret I'll have for the rest of my life," she said in the April 2, 2009, article.
Brun faces a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted.
Environmentalist Michael Robinson called her treatment unjust.
"Janay should be receiving a medal for the courage to come forward and expose the intentional snaring of Macho B," said Robinson, of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has long tangled in court with state and federal officials over the protection of jaguars.
After Macho B was snared on Feb. 18, 2009, state and federal officials said the capture was the unintentional result of an effort to capture mountain lions and bears in the area between Nogales and Arivaca.
But within six weeks, Brun disclosed in an interview that she had placed the scat of a fertile female jaguar at the site where Macho B was snared. She said she had been hiking Feb. 4 with McCain and Thorry Smith of Arizona Game and Fish, checking motion-sensing cameras for McCain while he and Smith set traps for the bear and mountain lion study.
Brun accused McCain of directing her to put the scat at the eventual snare site - something McCain denied for a year before admitting it was true on Friday. After Brun's comments were published, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was launching a criminal investigation.
McCain was a biologist for the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, where Brun also worked, and he had been working as a subcontractor for Arizona Game and Fish, trapping mountain lions for the bear and mountain lion study. Smith was a wildlife technician working on the study who ended up sedating the snared jaguar and putting a tracking collar on it.
Smith told Game and Fish officials last year that after Brun's allegations came to light, he and McCain agreed to cover up the fact that scat had been placed near snare sites. Smith was fired March 19, but the information he provided Game and Fish can't be used against him in court because his cooperation was required by his superiors in the department, and he was not allowed to have an attorney present.
Tucson attorney Michael Piccarreta is defending Brun and expressed optimism Monday that he'll be able to resolve the case positively with federal prosecutors.
"Obviously, her situation is different (than McCain's) in light of the fact that she came forward voluntarily. It's clearly a fact in her favor - that she voluntarily disclosed and cooperated with the government," he said.
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or at firstname.lastname@example.org