Wyoming Senate Kills Bill To Make Adults Who Sext Kids Register As Sex Offenders

A proposed law that would have made people who send obscene material to minors register as sex offenders failed to pass the Wyoming Senate on Wednesday. 

Clair McFarland

February 22, 20244 min read

The 2024 Wyoming Senate in session.
The 2024 Wyoming Senate in session. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

A Wyoming bill that would have required adults convicted of giving obscenity to children to register as sex offenders died Wednesday when it failed to pass the Senate.

Senate File 31 would have imposed a new requirement, making any Wyoming adult who has been convicted of disseminating obscenity to a minor register on the state’s sex offender list for at least 25 years.

It failed on a 17-13 vote Wednesday.

Disseminating obscenity to a minor is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and $6,000 in fines.

Had it passed, the bill would have added its new requirement to 36 Wyoming offenders already convicted of the crime and to any future offenders, Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, told the Wyoming Senate when he presented the bill on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It also would have applied to Wyoming transplants convicted of similar crimes in other states.

“There’s a potential for an 18-year-old who sent a 17-year-old obscene material to have to register,” Landen added.

Vocal Nays

That breadth was one of a few reasons Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, voted against the bill.

“It’s easy for innocuous actions of young people to qualify as a criminal offense under the obscenity statute that underlines this draft,” said Rothfuss during Wednesday’s Senate debate. “Everyone in this room probably knows five to 10 people that are guilty of this but have not been charged.

“Whether you agree with the behavior or not, it’s relatively commonplace.”

Rothfuss noted that failing to register for the offender list constitutes another crime. It’s a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $1,000 in fines. He called it “unsettling” to face a felony — and the mandatory surrender of one’s DNA — for failing to live up to the penalties of a misdemeanor.

Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, echoed Rothfuss’ concern, saying adding these misdemeanor-level offenders to the list will swell its numbers, create enforcement problems and dilute the sense of caution the list is meant to give the community.


Sen John Kolb, R-Rock Springs, said he didn’t like that the bill would affect those convicted before its passage.

“People plead out (instead of going to trial) for a lot of reasons and one of the reasons may have been (the charge) didn’t have this kind of penalty,” he said. “It’s unfair to add a penalty you didn’t know about.”

Sen. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, said he had a conflict and could not vote because he knew someone convicted under the obscenity charge and was thinking of that person.

Why They Brought It In The First Place

The Judiciary Committee posited the bill after hearing the testimony of a young woman from West Virginia last September.

Appearing by Zoom in a Joint Judiciary Committee meeting, Maddi Morgan told Wyoming lawmakers that a man who groomed her and sent her explicit images of himself when she was 12 now lives in Wyoming and no longer has to register as a sex offender.

The man pretended to be a 16-year-old boy living in her state. She later found out he was her 31-year-old youth pastor, Morgan said.

Authorities arrested the man and he was convicted of violating West Virginia’s obscenity statute, which is a felony in that state. He was required to register as a sex offender.

“He’s now a member of your state — a father of young children, a church member,” she said. “This is enough for me to come out and say that everyone needs to hold him accountable for what he did.”

Morgan said there were also other victims in her case. She said adding Wyoming’s obscenity law as a registerable offense would help protect other children.

It’s A Variety Platter

The nays on this bill varied across the political spectrum, from conservative to socially-conservative to liberal in both areas.

The nays were Kolb, Scott and Rothfuss, and Sens. Brian Boner, R-Douglas; Evie Brennan, R-Cheyenne; Cale Case, R-Lander; Tim French, R-Powell; Mike Gierau, D-Jackson; Larry Hicks, R-Baggs; Bob Ide, R-Casper; Stacy Jones, R-Rock Springs; Dan Laursen, R-Powell; Troy McKeown, R-Gillette; Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne; Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle; and Senate President Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower.

The ayes were Landen and Republican Sens. Jim Anderson (Casper), Fred Baldwin (Kemmerer), Bo Biteman (Ranchester), Anthony Bouchard (Cheyenne), Affie Ellis (Cheyenne), Dan Dockstader (Afton), Dan Furphy (Laramie), Lynn Hutchings (Cheyenne), Dave Kinskey (Sheridan), Tara Nethercott (Cheyenne), Wendy Schuler (Evanston) and Tim Salazar (Riverton).

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter