NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, May 7, 2018 From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers
Threats prompt appointment of special prosecutor
LARAMIE (WNE) — The Albany County Attorney’s Office requested the County Commission last week to appoint a special prosecutor to handle a criminal case after several threats were made to law enforcement and court officials involved.
The case the attorney’s office is looking to appoint a special prosecutor for is Wyoming versus William Keller, where the defendant allegedly violated a protection order.
Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said by appointing a special prosecutor, Albany County officials who were threatened by the individual would be removed from the case to make room for a prosecutor from Laramie County. In exchange for helping in this criminal matter, Albany County prosecutors would help Laramie County with a similar case.
“It is the county attorney’s office’s intent to request that Laramie County would be appointed on a specific case,” Trent said.
“Our office filled a revocation of the criminal offense — violating of an order of protection — and now the defendant has made threats toward a deputy as well as myself and (Circuit Court Judge Robert) Castor.”
The court case would continue through the legal process just as any other case in Albany County would, the main difference would be the prosecution would be coming from Laramie County, she said.
“We basically just substitute another prosecutor who has not been in this situation or threatened to handle the case,” Trent said.
“It provides a basis to make sure that the defendant receives a fair trial and prosecution and how the case is being presented.”
Because people can become upset when going through the legal system, threats made by individuals have to show the person intends to inflict harm on someone before it goes to a special prosecutor, she said. If the threats are found to be credible, special prosecution can be provided, which happened twice in 2015.
Change of plea in Worland overdose case
WORLAND (WNE) — Joseph A. Leyva, 29, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter last week for supplying Robert C. Kulze, 30, with a fatal dose of heroin Sept. 2, 2016.
The plea agreement was struck ahead of a scheduled May 14 jury trial.
Leyva set a factual basis during his change of plea hearing Thursday morning in front of District Court Judge Robert E. Skar, admitting to providing Kulze with heroin at his home on 501 Howell Ave.
Later, he and two others moved Kulze’s body to his nearby residence at 504 Obie Sue Ave and staged the scene to appear that he died in his own home.
As part of the deal, Leyva received a four- to six-year sentence to be served as a split-sentence, meaning he will serve one year of jail, and his additional time will be converted to supervised probation.
This sentence will run consecutive to a seven-year prison sentence and five years of supervised probation he has already received in connection with a plea agreement in a federal trafficking charge that claimed he was transporting heroin across state lines from Utah.
In all, Leyva will serve eight years behind bars and eight years of supervised probation.
Washakie County Attorney John Worrall addressed the court, pointing out both the Leyva and Kulze family members in attendance and saying everyone present were there because their life has been impacted by drugs.
After the hearing, Worrall said, “This case was a tough one. It really shined a light on our own community’s drug problems. There were many interviews conducted by law enforcement and additional charges stretching from Worland to Utah. We may never know how much heroin we were able to keep from flowing into our county as a result of this case.”
Whitney donates $11 million to Sheridan education
SHERIDAN (WNE) — The $11.369 million donation in late April by Whitney Benefits to support local education plays into a larger, ongoing effort by public and private organizations across the state to have more educated people working in a variety of jobs.
The money will support 18 full-time jobs and one seasonal job at Sheridan College in several programs. It will also fund computer science courses at the three Sheridan County school districts.
Sheridan College President Paul Young said funding — which begins July 1 — will be about even over the next seven years. The additional instructing positions at Sheridan College should result in higher enrollment. For example, Young said the donation could lead to a 50 percent increase in welding students.
Ideally, the donation will provide a better pipeline of trained workers for technical companies in the area like Weatherby, VacuTech, EMIT Technologies and L&H Industrial.
Moreover, two of the new positions are for the College Success Program, which focuses on student retention. The college hopes that paying for full-time staffers to help students stay in school instead of dropping out will lead to higher graduation rates in an array of programs.
Whitney Benefits board President Tom Kinnison said conversations about the donation began about a year ago with the purpose of enhancing some of the college programs so graduates could more easily move into high-paying jobs like in welding, machine tool technology, computer science and diesel mechanics.
“Hopefully, Wyoming will start recognizing how important it is [to] enhance education,” Kinnison said. “Whitney can help with the education part, but there’s only so much. We need a lot of help from a lot of people, foundations and companies if we’re going to do this right.”
Riverton residents discuss tolerance after radio comments
RIVERTON (WNE) — Members and supporters of the local LGBT community met Friday night in Riverton in response to comments made April 25 by a local radio host who called homosexuality a “destructive lifestyle.”
The meeting was hosted by Wyoming Equality, an LGBT advocacy group based out of Cheyenne. Wyoming Equality executive director Sara Burlingame said she was compelled to organize the Friday meeting to help Riverton process the “overwhelming amount of pain and anger” that the on-air comments caused.
“I hope that after some of the brokenness that we walked in with here tonight, we can walk away a little less broken,” she said.
During Friday’s meeting, members of the LGBT community discussed cultural obstacles to acceptance of gay people in Riverton.
For example, Wyoming Interfaith Network director Chesie Lee said too few churches in Fremont County are accepting of gay members.
The attendees also noted a number of positive resources for the local gay community, including Central Wyoming College’s Gay-Straight Alliance, Lander Valley High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, the Wind River Two Spirit Alliance, the First Stop Health Center and Faith Lutheran Church in Lander.
The discussion eventually evolved into a conversation about how to foster greater acceptance of LGBT people.
Burlingame suggested pushing for a local non-discrimination ordinance similar to the one the Laramie City Council passed in 2015. That year, Laramie became the first city in the state to ban “discrimination of any person based upon his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.”
The policy allows gay and transgender people to file a complaint with the city if they believe they have been the subject of discrimination.