By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The announcement that a 19-year-old man who was arrested last week in connection with allegations of possessing child pornography and soliciting a minor for sex was released created a furor on social media this week.
However, a spokeswoman for the Cheyenne Police Department told Cowboy State Daily that the department had no choice but to release Clayton Tanner.
“Following the initial investigation, Cheyenne Police officers arrested the suspect and forwarded an affidavit of probable cause to the Laramie County District Attorney,” said Alex Farkas. “The DA must then decide to file a criminal charge.”
As of Tuesday, Tanner had not yet been charged with any crimes. Under Wyoming law, prosecutors may file criminal charges at any point after a crime has been committed.
Tanner was arrested early the morning of July 4 after a confrontation with an organization that had created a character of an 11-year-old girl for online discussions with adult men.
One of the men involved in the group “Predator Poachers” who declined to comment on the record provided Cowboy State Daily with more than 50 screenshots of the alleged conversation between Tanner and the “girl.”
The screenshots of the conversation identified one of the people in the conversation as Tanner.
The group later released a 52-minute video which documented group leader Alex Rosen confronting Tanner, going through the graphic text messages, and later showing Tanner getting arrested.
Farkas told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that Tanner was released Thursday after a 72-hour hold, the maximum legal amount of time a suspect can be held by police without formal charges being filed.
Farkas said that unless a prosecuting attorney decides to file charges, the suspect is only being held in jail because the officer found probable cause for an arrest.
“In order to hold a suspect for longer than 72 hours, the DA’s office must file criminal charges,” Farkas said. “They have up to 72 hours to file charges on subjects detained in jail by the police, or the individual must be released.”