By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
The opposing sides in a “corner crossing” civil case will get their day in court – June 26, 2023.
That’s the date set for the jury trial, starting at 9 a.m. in Casper, according to U.S. District Court documents. The trail is expected to last four days.
The case stems from criminal trespassing charges filed against Missouri hunters Bradly Cape, Zachary Smith, Phillip Yoemens and John Slowensky.
They were accused of trespassing on Iron Bar Ranch land near Elk Mountain while attempting to cross from one corner of public land onto another section of public land in September 2021.
A Carbon County jury later found them innocent of those charges.
Iron Bar Holdings, LLC and its owner, Fred Eshelman of North Carolina, subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the hunters, claiming they had violated the ranch’s air space when they used a ladder-like device to cross a fence from one piece of public land to another at a checker-boarded corner with ranch property.
The outcome of the case could have broad implications for hunters, anglers, researchers and other outdoors enthusiasts.
Such checker-boarded corners between private and public land are common in Wyoming. In many areas, the only way to access vast stretches of public land is to “corner jump” from one parcel of public land to another.
If Iron Bar’s “air space” claim holds up, that could define corner jumping as criminal trespass.
The court on Sept. 2 granted a motion by the defense noting that Cape’s first name had been misspelled as “Bradley” in previous court documents, and should be spelled correctly going forward.
In another recent development, the defendants claimed Iron Bar and its owner and management violated the unlawful enclosures act of 1885.
That law prohibits landowners from using force, threats intimidation or other unlawful means to prevent public access to public lands adjoining their property, according to document filed on July 29 by the hunters’ attorney, Ryan Semerad.