By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to remove mentions of a law enforcement agent from an order censuring a Cheyenne attorney.
A petition filed with the court by the office of Attorney General Bridget Hill asked that the name of Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Jon Briggs be removed from the order censuring David Singleton, a former Laramie County district attorney.
In the report and a news release announcing the censure, Briggs was accused of making false statements during a hearing in the case of Laramie County hemp farmers charged with conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess marijuana and cultivation of marijuana.
But the motion said the Wyoming Board of Responsibility and the Supreme Court had no authority to determine whether Briggs engaged in wrongdoing and added the fact his name was included in the report has hurt his ability to do his job.
“While Agent Briggs may not have been the ‘target’ of action by the (BPR), the Wyoming State Bar and this court, he has and will continue to suffer serious consequences from the report and recommendation that was incorporated into this court’s order and the subsequent press release in this matter,” the filing said. “These statements may in all practicality mean an end to Agent Briggs’ career as a law enforcement officer.”
The case stems from charges filed in November 2019 against hemp producers Deborah Palm-Egle and her son Joshua Egle.
Raising hemp is legal in Wyoming, but if it contains more than 0.3% of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — it is considered marijuana and is illegal.
At the time hemp samples were seized from Palm-Egle and Egle, a man working at their ranch showed Briggs test results from the crop that showed the plants contained less than 0.3% of THC. During a preliminary hearing in July 2020, Briggs testified he had seen a report at the time of the incident that showed the hemp contained more than 0.3% THC.
During a break in proceedings, the attorney for Palm-Egle and Egle contacted Briggs and Singleton to suggest they correct the testimony.
According to the BPR’s report, Briggs testified he had not read the email from the attorney and Singleton failed to correct the statement.
However, the motion said a DCI investigation revealed that Briggs did not make false comments about the email.
The investigation revealed that Briggs was on vacation when he received the email and he forwarded it without reading it to the attorney general’s office and Singleton.
Despite the DCI’s finding, Briggs “is suffering significant consequences” because his name was included in the report, along with the allegation that he made false statements in court, the motion said.
“Within 30 minutes of the Wyoming State Bar’s press release (about the censure), prosecutors began contacting Agent Briggs’ direct supervisor stating ‘I don’t want (Agent Briggs) on my cases simply because I don’t want him to be cross-examined about this,’” the motion said.
Briggs was never given the opportunity to defend himself against the allegations, was never contacted during the BPR’s investigation into Singleton and was denied the right to due process by the BPR and the court, the AG’s office wrote.
“This was not justice for Special Agent Jon Briggs,” the motion said. “This is not justice for any individual who, while not an attorney, is associated with the legal system and seemingly happened to draw the ire of Bar Counsel.”
Even though the BPR and Supreme Court had no authority to take against against Briggs, putting the allegations in the report amounted to discipline, the motion said.
“The (BPR), the Wyoming State Bar and this court’s jurisdiction … was limited to disciplining a member of the Wyoming State Bar — David E. Singleton,” it said. “While the this process did not impose ‘formal discipline’ against Agent Briggs, the report and recommendation and subsequent press release approved by this court have accomplished the equivalent of formal discipline.”
The motion asks that Briggs’ name and allegations against him be removed from the censure order, that a statement be made specifying the order is “not a finding or conclusion of any misconduct on the part of Agent Briggs” and that a news release be issued explaining that the censure order “is in no way a finding that Agent Briggs engaged in misconduct of any kind.”