By Joy Ufford, Pinedale Roundup
Almost two years after being pulled over and cited by a deputy for not having proper brand inspections for four horses and a colt, Rock Springs veterinarian Rex F. Rammell was found guilty Wednesday in a one-day Circuit Court trial presided over by 3rd Circuit Court Judge Gregory Corpening.
Later, Rammell said he will appeal to 9th District Court, where months ago he filed a civil petition asking Judge Marv Tyler to rule on the constitutionality of Wyoming Statute 11-21-103(a) that authorizes an officer to stop anyone hauling livestock to check for current brand inspections.
The six-person jury returned the verdicts after about 40 minutes of deliberation, with the trial taking place in the larger 9th District Courtroom. Rammell had sought a jury trial on the June 26, 2019, misdemeanors – this was the first in Sublette County since the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted in-person attendance at court hearings.
Rammell’s arguments, limited by previous rulings, brought a handful of objections from Cannon, most sustained by the judge as Rammell questioned Deputy Ty Huffman, who stopped him that day.
During those sidebars, the jury heard “white noise” static as the three talked at the bench. Under Supreme Court-approved rules, jurors sat several seats apart, microphones were sanitized, attendees’ temperatures checked, Plexiglas installed and everyone wore facemasks.
Rammell represented himself; deputy county attorney Stan Cannon prosecuted the case. Each made opening and closing statements with very different perspectives on the Wyoming law and circumstances.
The only other witness was Wyoming brand inspector Mike Vickrey, asked to explain the basics of brand inspection and three livestock forms.
Rammell argued that Deputy Huffman couldn’t prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” the horses themselves came from Rock Springs into Sublette County.
Cannon used the deputy’s video and testimony to prove the charges’ basic elements. Rammell argued unsuccessfully that Cannon had stated he was not using the video at trial so he had not studied it.
Judge Corpening considered Cannon’s and Rammell’s arguments before imposing four sentences.
The judge asked Cannon if Rammell had any relevant criminal history. “The defendant has a pretty clean record,” he said.
“When I think of the hours my office has had to go through for a ticket, I would ask for the maximum,” Cannon said.
He asked the judge to impose four maximum sentences of six months in jail with all but four days suspended – “one for each horse.” Cannon also requested Rammell pay maximum $750 fines “on each horse,” or $3,000.
“One of the issues I’ve had in this case is (Rammell) believes he doesn’t need a brand inspection,” Cannon said. “… I don’t know if he ever got a brand inspection on these horses.”
He asked that Rammell undergo four consecutive six-month terms of unsupervised probation – two years total– “and to not violate this (brand inspection) law or any other law.”
Judge Corpening told Rammell he had the right to make a statement if he wished.
Rammell pointed to trial elements that he felt were unfair or incomplete – Deputy Huffman “admitted he hadn’t stopped to check many people” at that time.
“There are people all over this county that don’t get brand inspections,” Rammell said. “I’m not the only one who believes this law is unconstitutional.”
He referred to another brand-inspection case where a Farson woman was cited for bringing at least 30 calves to her property in Sublette County; it was reduced to one charge and one fine.
Rammell said it was the Sublette County Attorney’s Office that “took (the case) a lot farther than it needed to go.”
On Dec. 10, 2019, Sublette County Magistrate Clay Kainer ruled in favor of Rammell’s evidence motion to not allow the deputy’s report, in effect leaving no case to prosecute. That led county law enforcement to curtail livestock checks and angered some local ranch families that support the stops.
“I won this case originally and Judge (Curt) Haws certified, ratified it,” Rammell said.
However, the county attorney’s office appealed Kainer’s ruling, arguing he was not properly appointed at that time. Another district judge ruled Kainer’s order withdrawn and the case remanded to Circuit Court for a different legal analysis.
Judge Haws transferred the case to Judge Corpening.
Rammell has represented himself at every court hearing and in every filed document.
“(Cannon) talks about these hours – he didn’t have to appeal this,” Rammell said. “He’s gone beyond what he needed to do to settle this case. … If it costs you a bunch of work – that’s your job.”
Further, he said, if he knew Cannon was introducing the 2019 video, he would have proceeded differently.
“I don’t always (travel without brand inspections),” Rammell said. “I’ve got a stack of brand inspections; he wants me to be on probation for three years? I bet everyone here has done that.”
Rammell turned to Huffman – “Including you.”
Rammell said the drawn-out case dragged his name and reputation “through the mud” and cost him time, money and lost business.
“I have paid a big price already. I know you’re a fair judge,” he said. “I mean, four days in jail for not getting a brand inspection? I rest.”
Judge Corpening said the jury determined the violations were “willful” but he did not feel jail time was important.
He sentenced Rammell to 30 days in jail for each count, to run at the same time, then suspended them. He ordered four rounds of six months of unsupervised probation, also concurrent, and fines and fees of $1,255.
Payment would be suspended pending Rammell’s anticipated 9th District Court appeal of the verdict, the judge added, which he should file within 30 days. He then ended the hearing.
Outside in front of the courthouse, Rammell and Cannon, both angry, faced off on the sidewalk. Both walked away – but Rammell said he plans further court action including the appeal. Those could include a federal-court lawsuit “for all the things they’ve done to me” and a complaint about Cannon to the Wyoming State Bar.
His biggest goal is still to overturn the Wyoming brand-inspection law as unconstitutional.
“I think if ranchers really understood what the law was, they’d change their tune,” Rammell said. “They think it’s only on out-of-county (vehicles) – under that law if you run a calf or a horse up the road, you need a brand inspection.”