By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A former Laramie County prosecuting attorney who unsuccessfully tried the operators of a hemp farm on marijuana trafficking charges has been censured by the Wyoming Supreme Court for his behavior during a hearing.
David Singleton, a former assistant district attorney, was censured by the court Wednesday for failing to correct flawed testimony given by an investigator during the preliminary hearing for Josh Egle and Deborah Palm-Egle on charges including conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess marijuana and cultivation of marijuana.
A censure is a formal public reprimand issued by the Supreme Court. A censured attorney can continue to practice law.
Josh Egle and his mother Deborah Palm-Egle operate a hemp farm in Albin. In November 2019, the farm was searched by Division of Criminal Investigation agents who seized more than 700 pounds of drying hemp to have it tested for THC content.
At the time the plants were seized, Brock Dykes, a construction contractor who was hired to perform some work on the farm, showed the agents the results of a test on the hemp conducted by Botanacor, an independent laboratory that tested the hemp for levels of THC, the ingredient active ingredient in marijuana.
Marijuana is derived from hemp that has a THC content of more than 0.3%.The Botanacor test results, which were stored on Dykes’ cell phone, showed the hemp raised at the farm had a THC content of less than 0.3%.
According to a report prepared for the Supreme Court by the state Board of Professional Responsibility, the body responsible for enforcing ethics rules among Wyoming’s attorneys, a test of the hemp conducted for the DCI showed its THC content to be above 0.3% and in April 2020, Singleton filed charges against Egle, Palm-Egle, Brock Dykes and his wife Shannon.
During a preliminary hearing held in July, a DCI agent testified that the test results from Botanacor showed the hemp contained more than 0.3% THC, which was inaccurate.
The attorney for Egle and Palm-Egle contacted the agent during a break in the court proceedings and asked him to correct the testimony when proceedings resumed.
The report said a similar request was sent to Singleton.
However, when proceedings resumed in August 2020, the agent simply said he did not remember paying attention to the Botanacor report.
“Thus, rather than correct the inaccurate testimony he offered at the first hearing regarding the test results, (the agent) continued the prevarication,” the report said. “(Singleton) conditionally admits that his questions to (the agent) … rather than clarify the record … had the effect of further muddying the record, and, accordingly, constituted another breach of his obligation of candor to the (court).”
At the end of the preliminary hearing, the judge found there was no intent on the part of Egle and Palm-Egle to violate marijuana laws. Singleton dismissed the charges.
The Board of Professional Responsibility recommended Singleton be censured for failing to correct false information given in court when he knew it to be false.
The board also said because Singleton had never been the subject of disciplinary action in the past and because he cooperated with the investigation, he should only be subject to a reprimand and not a more severe punishment such as suspension or disbarment.