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lawsuit

Cody UFO Magazine Owners Say Showtime ‘Regurgitated’ Tapes For ‘UFO’ Series

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Owners of a UFO-themed magazine based in Cody recently asked a federal judge to allow their trademark lawsuit against television network Showtime to continue.

“UFO Magazine” is suing Showtime over the network’s use of the phrase “UFO” as the title of one of its programs about unidentified flying objects.

Showtime asked that the lawsuit be dismissed, arguing its use of the term is protected by the First Amendment, but UFO Magazine, which trademarked the term “UFO” in 2007 and again in 2017, said Showtime could use other phrases or words for the title of its program.

“Never mind that [Showtime] could have chosen any alternative and completely accurate words or phrases to describe its television show and never mind that UFO Magazine has invested time and resources in promoting and raising funds to develop a very costly television/film project — [Showtime] argues that it can take and use UFO’s trademarked title because UFO Magazine’s trademark fairly describes [Showtime’s] content,” UFO Magazine’s lawyers argued.

The magazine also argued that Showtime “regurgitated” stale alien-like tapes to market the show last year.

UFO’s attorneys also claimed Showtime was “openly pirating” the magazine’s property rights.

The lawsuit stems from Showtime’s docu-series “UFO” in 2021. According to the Showtime website, the series “explores our fascination with UFOs and the influence government, private companies and the military may have in shielding the truth.”

The magazine’s first commercial use of the term occurred in 1998, the same year the company was formed, and the owners’ attorneys argued that the magazine has been in talks as recently as last year about developing its on television show or movie, according to the initial lawsuit filings.

The magazine’s owners are asking for Showtime to be barred from using the “UFO” term in any materials and also for the channel to pay for punitive damages, attorney fees and any other costs the court deem rightful.

According to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, the magazine’s president is Peter Kuyper of Cody. Its legal representative or “registered agent” is Lisa M. Price of Jackson.

The magazine’s initial paperwork to be registered as a business in Wyoming was filed in 2018. The magazine was founded in California in the 1990s.

The term “U.F.O.” first appeared in military accounts about unidentified flying objects in the 1950s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

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Worker Sues Railroad After Breaking Through Plexiglass And Nearly Getting Run Over

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Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
20843

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad employee is suing his employer for negligence after he broke three ribs after falling through a hole in a ballast machine when a Plexiglass shield failed, recent court filings showed.

Two retired Wyoming railroaders told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that if the allegations raised by Lance Mickelson in his lawsuit are accurate, he could have a strong case against the railroad.

“The glass underneath a grate like that should be like a car windshield and able to withstand a lot,” former Union Pacific employee and legislator Stan Blake said. “It’s a lot thicker than your normal glass. I’ve even seen bullet holes in them and seen where they could stop one.”

Mickelson filed a lawsuit against BNSF on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Wyoming. He accused the company of negligence, alleging that Plexiglass was installed in a “ballast” machine rather than the standard safety glass.

The court documents said Mickelson was a maintenance of way employee working on a ballast distribution machine in Sheridan on June 13, 2019.

On the machine, there is a piece of glass that sits beneath a grate under the operator’s feet. As part of Mickelson’s job duties, he removed the grate on this day in order to clean the plexiglass underneath.

As he was cleaning the glass, the ballast machine moved. This caused the Plexiglass to fail, which then led to Mickelson falling out of the machine and six feet to the ground.

While falling, Mickelson hit the plow wing of the machine on his back, which caused him to flip over onto his stomach, hitting the track directly beneath.

As a result of the fall, Mickelson received “severe” injuries, including three broken ribs.

Mickelson claims that as a result of BNSF’s negligence, as defined by the Federal Employees’ Liability Act, he sustained severe mental and physical injuries, which have required ongoing medical treatment.

He also alleged that BNSF failed to provide him with a reasonably safe workplace.

Mickelson is asking for monetary damages in relation to his mental and physical pain and suffering, potential permanent disability, loss of enjoyment of life, past and future lost wages and future life care needs.

Retired maintenance of way employee Glen Hackman told Cowboy State Daily that Wyoming, in particular, had a “terrible” record when it came to such worker injuries and fatalities.

“In my opinion, there’s a lack of enforcement and lack of political will to hold employers accountable for how they treat people,” he said.

Blake questioned what the machine’s operator was doing that caused the machine to move and said this type of equipment should have had its brakes set and the machine turned off.

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Judge Allows Out-Of-State Hunters $4 Million “Emotional Pain And Suffering” Lawsuit To Continue

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Park County judge dismissed a claim of malicious prosecution two hunters brought against the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, but he allowed wrongful arrest and detention claims, recent court filings show. 

In mid-May, Judge Bill Simpson dismissed the malicious prosecution claim, citing a one-year statute of limitations that has since passed. But he allowed wrongful arrest and detention claims to move forward. 

Blendi Cumani of North Dakota and Roland Shehu of Pennsylvania filed the claims and are asking for damages in the amount of $2 million each for “past and future emotional pain and suffering and past and future loss of enjoyment of life.”

Cumani and Shehu allege that while hunting in Park County in October 2019, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Warden Chris Queen began an investigation into the killing and abandonment of three elk in the area. 

Wyoming state law forbids the “failure of any person to properly dress and care for any big game animal killed by that person, and if the carcass is reasonably accessible, within 48 hours to take or transport the carcass to the camp of that person, and there properly care for the carcass.”   

According to the lawsuit filed in state district court in Park County, the warden detained Cumani and Shehu, ordering them to remain in the county during his investigation and preventing them from returning to their homes. 

The men argued in the lawsuit that the warden’s investigation failed to show they shot the elk and evidence proved they did not, but Queen pursued criminal charges against the two.

After a September 2020 jury trial, Cumani and Shehu were found not guilty of killing the elk. 

The men argued that Queen did not have probable cause to detain or arrest them and that this violated their constitutional rights.  The $2 million each damage claims are for past and future emotional pain and suffering and past and future loss of enjoyment of life.

It was not clear if the person who shot the elk was ever identified or charged.

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Cheyenne Gas Station Suing Fed Ex For Driver Damaging Car Wash

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20203

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The owners of a Cheyenne gas station are suing Federal Express, alleging a delivery truck’s backup camera got caught in the brushes of a car wash, causing more than $170,000 in damages and forcing the car wash’s closure for more than one month.

Big D Oil Co., which is based in South Dakota, filed a lawsuit against FedEx in state district court in Cheyenne in late April over damages done to a car wash connected to a Big D service station in Cheyenne.

The case was moved to U.S. District Court on Thursday because the amount in dispute is more than $75,000 and the two parties are located in different states.

According to court documents, Fed Ex driver Penny Archibald drove her delivery vehicle through the Big D car wash on Dell Range Boulevard in August 2020.

The lawsuit said Archibald drove into the car wash despite the presence of warning signs that said her vehicle could not safely pass through the car wash.

The lawyers for Big D argued a sign on the car wash also said car wash operators were not responsible for damages to vehicles and warned drivers against going through the car wash if a vehicle had “body damage, loose chrome or non-standard accessories.”

Archibald’s vehicle had a back-up camera on the top of it, which the Big D lawyers argued is a non-standard accessory.

Her vehicle’s camera became entangled in the car wash’s brushes, which led to a collapse of components in the car wash and caused “severe” damage to the structure and equipment.

Archibald fled the scene after causing the damage, the lawsuit said, but returned later and admitted to causing the damage.

Due to the damage caused by Archibald, the car wash was inoperable from Aug. 6 to Sept. 22, 2020, the lawsuit said. The damages caused totaled more than $174,000.

Big D’s lawyers also claimed that by not having the car wash operational, the company lost additional sales, revenue and customer loyalty.

The lawsuit also argued that FedEx has not reimbursed Big D for the damages to the car wash, loss of revenue or the loss of ancillary sales, despite demands for it.

The oil company is asking for FedEx to not only repay the Big D for the damages and economic losses, but also for but attorney fees.

Fed Ex has denied the allegations in a subsequent court filing, saying the signs at the car wash did not make it clear that the FedEx vehicle could not pass safely through the car wash.

The company also denied it took any action that led directly to the damage.

“FedEx Express’s conduct was neither a material element, substantial factor, nor a cause of any of (Big D’s) alleged injuries or damages,” the filing said.

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K9s For Mobility CEO ‘Outraged’ At Dubois Motel For Denying Army Vet, Service Dog A Room

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Col. Victoria Miralda, (Ret.)
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A Dubois motel had no reason to refuse a room to a U.S. veteran because of her service dog, according to the leader of a Cheyenne group that helps train such dogs.

Michelle Woerner, CEO of K9s 4 Mobility, said she was outraged at allegations the Chinook Winds Motel refused to let Col. Victoria Miralda stay at the hotel with her service dog Luna.

“People need to realize that denying the service dog access is like telling the person to leave their cane, walker or wheelchair outside,” Woerner told Cowboy State Daily. “The service dog allows that person to complete daily tasks, so without them someone or something would need to take the dog’s place. There is no reason to deny the person with the service dog before observing the behavior.”

Miralda is suing Chinook winds on allegations it violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Wyoming law when it refused to allow her to stay at the motel with her dog, which she relies on for help with physical disabilities and mental health issues.

In particular, Luna helps Miralda going up and down stairs and dealing with anxiety stemming from PTSD.

Miralda’s lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleged that the motel owner would not allow her and a fellow veteran to stay at the business due to Miralda’s service dog.

The women attempted to stay at the hotel in September 2021 when returning from an event in Montana, the lawsuit said. Miralda reserved a room for one night through the Expedia travel website, paying around $120 in advance.

When checking in, Miralda informed the motel employee, who identified herself as the owner, that she had a service animal. The owner said Luna could not stay in the room, as the motel did not allow pets.

When Miralda explained Luna was not a pet, but a service animal, the owner reiterated the policy of no pets and no exceptions.

Woerner told Cowboy State Daily that ADA does not require any certification or registration for a service dog, but the animal must perform physical skill tasks that directly address its owner’s disability.

“The motel cannot deny anyone with a service dog or even ask for any type of “paperwork” that shows the dog is a trained service dog,” she said. “They can only ask if the dog is a service dog needed for a disability and then what tasks the dog is trained to do.”

Miralda offered to show documentation proving that Luna was trained and certified as a service animal and to bring in her own bedsheet to ensure the room remained clean, despite Luna being housebroken and well-behaved, the lawsuit said.

The owner refused this offer and told Miralda that if she brought the dog into the motel room, she would be charged an additional $200.

Woerner said that the motel cannot charge an extra fee for the service dog being in the room, but can charge for damage done by the dog or for extra cleaning needed because of the dog, excluding dog hair.

“At K9s 4 Mobility, we encourage all of our clients to inform the motel they are making reservations with that they will have a service dog with them and request that it be included as a note on the reservation so anyone checking them in is aware of it,” she said. “We also encourage clients to carry the ADA law about public access and specifically hotels/motels, so they can show anyone asking.”

Since the owner would not allow Miralda to stay with Luna, she asked for a refund of her advance payment, but was denied.

A person claiming to be the owner then posted remarks about Miralda to Expedia following the encounter, stating there was nothing in the reservation about a service animal accompanying Miralda, that the motel did not allow dogs and that Luna did not have any documentation proving Luna was a service dog, the lawsuit said.

According to court documents, since the encounter with Miralda, the Chinook Winds is now allowing dogs in two rooms, which are apparently also the most expensive rooms at the motel. Guests are also required to pay a surcharge for their dogs.

Woerner said that she was amazed people were still so ignorant about service dogs and ADA, even in 2022.

“The public gets confused on what is legit and what is not,” she said. “Then there are those people that are basically faking a disability by calling their pet dog a ‘service dog’ to bring them into a public place and many times that is a hotel/motel. The motel/hotel owners should observe the behavior of the service dog and if that dog is behaving poorly, the ADA gives them the right to refuse lodging or services with the dog.”

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Wyoming-Based Taco John’s Suing Minnesota Restaurant Taco Chon For Trademark Infringement

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming-based restaurant chain Taco John’s is suing a Minnesota restaurant, Taco Chon, accusing it of “willfully and deliberately” infringing on the Wyoming company’s trademark.

Taco John’s International, Inc. and Spicy Seasonings LLC filed a lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, alleging that Taco Chon owner Juan Ramos is infringing on Taco John’s trademark of its name.

The companies accused Ramos of opening two quick-service Mexican cuisine restaurants similar to Taco John’s under the name “Taco Chon” within 5 miles of Taco John’s restaurants in Minnesota, which is “likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception.”

Taco Chon has locations in St. Cloud, Minnesota, which is just over 1 mile away from a Taco John’s, and Burnsville, Minnesota, which is 4 miles away from a Taco John’s franchise.

“Defendants’ use of the term ‘Taco Chon’ is an attempt to trade on the goodwill and commercial magnetism that Taco John’s has built up in the [trademark] and to free-ride on Taco John’s fame as a preeminent Mexican restaurant brand,” attorneys for Taco John’s said in court filings this week.

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Ramos in the wake of the lawsuit, with a goal of raising $150,000. A little over $1,000 had been raised as of Friday morning.

“I [am] helping Juan Ramos keeping his American dream alive! Every dollar counts together we can save a dream! Together we can fight with Juan Ramos against the monster of the injustice! Let’s stop the dream killer! Let’s save Taco Chon Mexican Grill! God Bless you all,” the GoFundMe description read.

Ramos did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday.

However, Ramos told a Minnesota TV news outlet this week he has never been to a Taco John’s and that his food is different from the franchise’s. He also said he intended to fight the lawsuit and would represent himself in court, if necessary.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Taco John’s said they weren’t pleased they had to pursue a legal route to remedy the situation.

“We take no joy in enforcing our trademark rights in court against a small business owner and only do so after other options have been exhausted,” the company said in a statement.

Taco John’s is no stranger to filing lawsuits to protect its trademarks.

The company has sent “cease and desist” letters to other restaurants over their use of the slogan “Taco Tuesday,” which it trademarked in 1989.

In 2006, Taco John International sued Taco Del Mar, alleging one of its restaurants in Colorado used the slogan to advertise its Tuesday specials.

The lawsuit was dismissed at the request of all parties three months after it was filed.

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Man Suing Town Of Evansville, Cops For Beating, Tasing, Arrest Without Probable Cause

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man is suing the town of Evansville and multiple police officers for beating, tasing, pepper spraying and arresting him without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

Brandon Wuebker is seeking an unspecified amount in financial compensation for damages he suffered in the May 2018 arrest.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Wuebker was being driven home by a friend on the evening of May 20, 2018. A woman was in the passenger seat and Wuebker was in the back.

Evansville Police Officer Bryce Norcross, who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, pulled the vehicle Wuebker’s friend was driving over and claimed the driver failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

Norcross obtained identification from all three passengers. The court documents argued that while the stop was routine and no one in the vehicle had outstanding warrants or done anything suspicious, two more officers arrived in support of Norcross.

The driver was given a field sobriety test while Wuebker and the woman passenger stayed in the vehicle.

At the beginning of the encounter, Wuebker informed the officers that he needed to use the bathroom and asked permission to do so at a nearby gas station.

He began to exit the car in attempt to walk to the restroom, but the two officers who had recently arrived “aggressively” ordered him to stay in the car and informed him that he was not free to leave.

Evansville Sgt. Luke Nelson, one of the two officers to arrive later on scene and who was named as a defendant in the case, was apparently annoyed by minor protests made by the female passenger, who allegedly called the officer a[n] “[expletive] pig” and another term that is not publishable.

Nelson then apparently declared his intention to “[expletive] these people up,” the lawsuit said.

Wuebker also ordered out of the vehicle and told he was under arrest.

“Mr. Wuebker was very confused by the conflicting orders being yelled at him,” the court documents said.

The officers then attempted to force Wuebker out of the two-door vehicle. Without warning, one of them pepper-sprayed Wuebker, then grabbed the man and “violently” dragged him out of the car.

As this was happening, the other officer fired his taser into Wuebker’s chest.

The officers also slammed Wuebker headfirst onto the road pavement, the lawsuit said, which caused a “gaping head wound.” The officer again deployed his Taser into Wuebker, this time into his back.

He allegedly told Wuebker if the man moved at all, the officer would again tase him.

McGraw also kneed Wuebker in the ribs, the lawsuit said. Photos taken from the officers’ body camera footage shown Wuebker bleeding on the ground. According to the court documents, it was later found that Wuebker suffered a concussion due to the encounter and a wound that required stitches.

“Although Mr. Wuebker was not resisting arrest and presented no threat to anyone after he was slammed to the ground, all three defendant officers went hands on to forcibly and aggressively detain him,” the court documents said.

Wuebker was later taken to the Natrona County Detention Center and charged with obstructing a peace officer.

In February 2019, the charge against Wuebker was dismissed.

Wuebker’s attorneys argued that the town of Evansville failed to properly train, supervise and discipline its officers, which led to his encounter in May 2018.

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Alec Baldwin Claims 1st Amendment Protection After Calling Fallen Wyo Marine’s Family “Insurrectionists”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Actor Alec Baldwin is claiming that the family members of a fallen U.S. Marine from Jackson are responding to his request for dismissal of their $25 million lawsuit against him with “misdirection” rather than addressing the facts of the case.

Baldwin filed a response this week to Jiennah, Roice and Cheyenne McCollum’s own reply to his request for dismissal, saying the family has failed to prove he did anything but exercise his First Amendment rights when he referred to Roice McCollum as an “insurrectionist.”

“The First Amendment protects all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, fame or wealth,” Baldwin’s attorneys in court documents filed Monday. “Baldwin expressed his protected political opinion about the events of Jan. 6. [The McCollums] try hard to make this case about something else – rich versus poor, celebrities versus ‘most Americans,’ red states versus blue states. But it’s not.”

Baldwin’s response also said the McCollums failed to directly counter his arguments that the U.S. District Court in Cheyenne has no jurisdiction over the case and that he committed no wrong.

“These tactics cannot sustain (the McCollums’) case,” the response said.

Background

The McCollums filed their lawsuit against Baldwin in January after he called Roice McCollum an “insurrectionist” on his Instagram page because she was present at a demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, the day the U.S. Capitol was invaded.

The comments came after Baldwin sent a check for $5,000 to help support the family of Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McColumn, who was killed in Afghanistan.

According to the McCollums’ lawsuit, after donating money to the family, Baldwin reached out to Roice McCollumm Rylee’s sister, after seeing a post from her on Instagram that showed protestors outside of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Roice had attended a demonstration in support of former President Donald Trump, but did not take part in the attack on the Capitol that occurred that day.

The lawsuit said Baldwin called Roice an insurrectionist and then posted her picture to his own Instagram page, resulting in immediate insults and threats from some of his 2.4 million followers against not only Roice McCollum, but the fallen Marine’s widow and child.

Baldwin’s attorneys earlier this month asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed, arguing that Baldwin cannot be sued for calling the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 an “insurrection,” as many other Republicans, Democrats and political officials have referred to it in the same way.

Baldwin Is Different

The McCollum family’s attorneys, in their response to Baldwin’s request, argued that Baldwin is not like most Americans who use social media, since he is wealthy, famous and has a following of millions of people.

“In other words, the consequences of Baldwin’s actions are far more serious than those of ‘most Americans,’” the family’s attorneys argued. “Baldwin cannot simply pick a fight in Wyoming and scurry back to his Manhattan penthouse claiming he is immune from the consequences of his actions in Wyoming.”

But Baldwin’s reply Monday said none of the McCollums’ arguments were relevant in their response to his request, which he said was based on numerous legal arguments.

“In response, (the McCollums) did not distinguish those authorities,” his reply said. “Plaintiffs instead chose a different path: misdirection.”

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Federal Judge Denies Ex-Cop’s Dismissal Request In Racism Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A federal judge has denied the request of a former Albany County sheriff’s deputy that the racial discrimination lawsuit filed against him be dismissed.

Judge Scott Skavdahl rejected Christian Handley motion for dismissal of the lawsuit filed against him by by Jamin Johnson, a former Albany County deputy who is Black, disagreeing with Handley’s arguments that the time limit for filing a complaint against him had passed, so the lawsuit should be dismissed.

However, after Handley filed his request, Johnson filed an amended complaint over Handley’s alleged discriminatory actions, expanding on certain details and stating that Handley was not punished for his racist practices due to a “good ole’ boy” network.

“It was widespread knowledge among ACSO employees that Mr. Handley was part of ACSO’s ‘good ole’ boy’ network and enjoyed the patronage of, and a special relationship with, the sheriff,” Johnson’s amended lawsuit complaint reads. “A ‘good ole’ boy’ network refers to an informal system where white men of a similar background use their influence for their mutual benefit (and often to the detriment of those who are not part of the ‘good ole’ boy’ network).”

The amended complaint contained allegations of actions that occurred within the time limit to file complaints, so the judge did not dismiss the lawsuit against Handley. Skavdahl also noted that Handley had not yet responded to the amended complaint.

However, Handley has filed a new motion to dismiss part of Johnson’s lawsuit — specifically the sections about Johnson’s claims of a hostile work environment, again citing the statute of limitations.

The original lawsuit against Handley was filed in January. It alleged that during the 10-year period Johnson worked at the sheriff’s department, from 2007 to 2017, his supervisor Handley “relentlessly” demeaned him with racial slurs and innuendos, even once in front of Johnson’s wife and children.

The lawsuit alleges that at the end of 2016, Handley was promoted to patrol sergeant and “immediately orchestrated a sham disciplinary process” to force Johnson out of the department due to his race.

Johnson’s lawsuit also said Handley fabricated numerous disciplinary actions against Johnson in rapid succession and then persuaded the department to give Johnson an ultimatum: Johnson could demote himself to a position still under Handley or leave the department.

On Aug. 2, 2017, Johnson resigned.

Johnson’s lawsuit said in 2021, the department conducted an internal investigation, which substantiated Johnson’s claims of racism. It also alleged that the investigation showed Handley had received unfair preferential treatment throughout his employment at the department, which emboldened his misconduct.

According to the lawsuit, Handley routinely referred to Johnson, the only Black officer in the department, with slurs such as “jigaboo” and the n-word. It alleged Handley once also asked if Johnson had sex with a Black woman and when Johnson said nothing, Handley said “That would be nasty. That would be like having sex with a dog.”

Johnson is asking for damages due to his lost income and benefits from having to resign, lost employment opportunities, psychological and emotional anguish, distress, pain and suffering and attorneys’ fees.

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Fallen Wyoming Marine’s Family Say Alec Baldwin’s “Entitlement” Led Him to Attack Them

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The sisters and widow of a fallen U.S. Marine from Wyoming called actor Alec Baldwin “entitled” in their response to his request for a dismissal of a $25 million lawsuit against him.

Cheyenne, Roice and Jiennah McCollum, the sisters and widow, respectively, of the late Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, filed a response Monday to Baldwin’s request that a federal court dismiss the $25 million lawsuit they filed against him on allegations he defamed members of the family on his Instagram page.

“This case is about an incredibly wealthy, incredibly famous man whose overwhelming sense of entitlement led him to attack the grieving widow and sisters of a deceased U.S. Marine in front of his 2.4 million Instagram followers…and who now seeks to avoid responsibility for the harm he caused them,” the response filing from the McCollums said.

The McCollums filed their lawsuit against Baldwin in January after he called Roice McCollum an “insurrectionist” on his Instagram page because she was present at a demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, the day the U.S. Capitol was invaded.

Baldwin in April asked the court to dismiss the case, saying he should not be punished for simply expressing a political opinion.

But the McCollums, in their opposition to the dismissal request filed Monday, argued that Baldwin’s defaming post about Roice McCollum did not constitute as a political opinion, but rather “deeply troublesome” and harmful attacks “that opened a door to threats and false allegations against this Gold Star family that to this day has not been closed.”

The original post that prompted the McCollums’ lawsuit was made after Baldwin donated $5,000 to support Rylee’s wife and child following his death in Afghanistan.

According to the McCollums’ lawsuit, after donating money to the family, Baldwin reached out to Roice McCollum after seeing a post from her on Instagram that showed protestors outside of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Roice had attended a demonstration in support of former President Donald Trump, but did not take part in the attack on the Capitol that occurred that day.

Roice was also interviewed by the FBI, but was never investigated or charged with any wrongdoing.

The lawsuit said Baldwin called Roice an insurrectionist and then posted her picture to his own Instagram page, resulting in immediate insults and threats from some of his 2.4 million followers.

But Baldwin’s attorneys, in asking for the dismissal, argued that Baldwin cannot be sued for calling the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 an “insurrection,” as many other Republicans, Democrats and political officials have referred to it in the same way.

“Baldwin cannot be sued in Wyoming or be held liable for stating this political opinion,” his attorneys said earlier this month. “A contrary ruling would violate the U.S. Constitution…violate Wyoming common law and result in an outcome [the McCollums] claim to detest: a society in which someone can be legally punished for political speech.”

The attorneys also argued that since Baldwin has no connection to Wyoming, the federal court has no jurisdiction in the case and said that the messages between Baldwin and Roice McCollum where he referred to her as an insurrectionist were private and not shared with his followers, so his statements could not be considered defamatory.

The McCollum family’s attorneys argued that Baldwin is not like most Americans who use social media, since he is wealthy, famous and has a following of millions of people.

“In other words, the consequences of Baldwin’s actions are far more serious than those of ‘most Americans,'” the attorneys argued this week. “Baldwin cannot simply pick a fight in Wyoming and scurry back to his Manhattan penthouse claiming he is immune from the consequences of his actions in Wyoming.”

The McCollum attorneys also said Baldwin went out of his way to play the victim in his dismissal request and argued the actor knew exactly what he was doing and what he meant when he referred to Roice as an “insurrectionist” on his Instagram account.

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Laramie Commissioners, Former Sheriff, Deputy Deny Claim Of Deleting Video Of Man’s Killing

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Albany County’s former sheriff, a former deputy and the county’s board of commissioners are asking a federal court to reject a woman’s argument that a video of the deputy shooting her son in 2018 was altered to remove evidence.

In three separate motions filed this week in U.S. District Court, the Albany County Board of Commissioners, former deputy Derek Colling and former sheriff David O’Malley asked that the court deny a motion for summary judgment in favor of Debra Hinkel, the mother of Robbie Ramirez.

Hinkel, in her request for a summary judgment filed in March, alleged that video from the incident had been altered, so she is entitled to a summary judgment in her wrongful death lawsuit against the three.

But all Colling and the commissioners denied the video had been changed.

“[Hinkel] has employed a discovery tactic of ‘catch me if you can,’ as it relates to a conspiracy theory, unsupported by evidence, that has been perpetuated by [Hinkel] that Colling engaged in serious misconduct in the events that led to the justifiable shooting of Robbie Ramirez,” documents filed on behalf of Colling said.

“Simply put, [Hinkel] is attempting to muddy the waters enough to overcome Colling’s meritorious qualified immunity argument,” the documents said.

Colling, who was a corporal with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, shot and killed Ramirez, 39, during an altercation that occurred after a traffic stop in November 2018. He was cleared of wrongdoing in the incident by a grand jury.

In the filing by county commissioners, attorneys the attorneys called Hinkel’s claims “physically and technologically impossible” and “outrageous.”

“The body camera video cannot be edited or deleted with the use of the viewer,” the board’s court documents said. “Deputy Colling did not have the capability, knowledge or intent to modify the dash camera video footage or the body camera footage at the scene.”

In her request for a summary judgment, Hinkel alleges that the defendants deleted five “crucial” seconds of video footage from Colling’s body camera and deleted audio from his dash camera footage, thereby “severely” hindering Hinkel’s ability to show that the shooting was not justified.

She also claims that the county commissioners presented the altered copies of both videos to the public, and said she assumes this is the same evidence presented to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the grand jury that cleared Colling.

O’Malley’s attorneys argued there was no evidence showing that he was complicit in any alleged altering of the videos.

“[Hinkel] cannot show that Sheriff O’Malley is responsible in any way for any supposed manipulation of the body worn camera, even assuming it happened, or that he had an intent to deprive [Hinkel] of any information,” the documents filed on behalf of O’Malley said.

Hinkel additionally alleged that the Albany County Sheriff’s Office removed the audio from Colling’s dash cam footage.

Colling shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in 2009 while working as a police officer in Las Vegas, a shooting that led to a lengthy lawsuit. He was fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in 2011 for an alleged assault of a videographer trying to film police work, according to WyoFile.

Colling resigned from the sheriff’s office in June 2021.

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Former Cheyenne Employee Sues City; Claims Abusive Behavior By Former Mayor

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A former human resources director for the City of Cheyenne is suing the city, alleging she was a victim of discrimination because of a disability.

Denise Freeman is suing the city in federal court, seeking damages in an amount to be determined by a jury for lost wages, harm to her reputation, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life and other injuries.

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday, the allegations stem from former Mayor Marian Orr’s decision to fire Freeman after Freeman asked for extended unpaid medical leave.

The firing followed several disputes between the two women, the lawsuit said, that began shortly after Orr took office in January of 2017.

“During her only term as tenure, Mayor Orr was prone to fits of rage and would lash out angrily at Ms. Freeman and other city employees,” the lawsuit said. “At all times material to this complaint, Mayor Orr would scream diatribes, swear at and in the presence of city employees and stomp angrily out of meetings.”

Some of the disputes stemmed from the Human Resources Department’s failure to send Orr employment applications submitted by “friends and acquaintances, several of which had not cleared departmental review,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also said Freeman was criticized by Orr for “burying” an application that the Human Resources Department had determined was incomplete.

“During her employment with (the city), Ms. Freeman felt bullied and intimidated by Mayor Orr and her Chief of Staff Eric Fountain,” it said.

In April 2018, suffering from depression, anxiety and insomnia exacerbated by “work stress,” Freeman asked for six weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

“Ms. Freeman had a disabling medical condition that, among other things, substantially affected her ability to focus and work,” the lawsuit said. “She requested leave because of her disability.”

An assistant human resources director was hired while Freeman was gone, the lawsuit said, and was paid $5,000 more per year than Freeman was making.

The new assistant director was then told he would become the department’s interim director while Freeman was on leave with a salary of $25,000 more per year than Freeman’s.

Freeman’s asked for another six weeks of unpaid leave in June 2018. She asked on July 16, 2018, that she be allowed to use her accrued vacation time for additional leave and to use another 160 hours from the city’s “sick leave bank” to extend her leave. She said her request was accompanied by a doctor’s statement that she was still suffering from depression and anxiety.

On July 18, Orr wrote to tell Freeman her request for additional leave was denied because a doctor had not signed the proper form. 

In the same letter, Orr told Freeman she was fired, although she also said Freeman could apply for open positions within the city when she was ready to return to work.

The lawsuit alleged the city failed to make reasonable accommodations for Freeman’s disability and then fired her because of her disability in violation of federal laws.

“The unlawful employment practices complained of in the preceding paragraphs were done with malice or reckless indifference for Ms. Freeman’s federally protected rights,” it said.


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Cody Magazine Owners Suing Showtime For Copyright Infringement Over “UFO”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The owners of a UFO-themed magazine in Cody are suing a television network in federal court over alleged copyright infringement, claiming they own the term “UFO” for entertainment purposes.

The owners of UFO Magazine, who are not individually identified lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, are arguing that Showtime infringed on the magazine’s trademark of the acronym “UFO,” an acronym for “unidentified flying object.” The magazine trademarked “UFO” in 2007 for entertainment purposes and renewed the trademark in 2017, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit stems from Showtime’s airing of a docu-series “UFO” in 2021, which dealt with unidentified flying objects. According to the Showtime website, the series “explores our fascination with UFOs and the influence government, private companies and the military may have in shielding the truth.”

The magazine’s first commercial usage of the term was in 1998, the same year the company was formed, and the owners’ attorneys argued that the magazine has been in talks about developing either a television show or movie, with talks taking place as recently as last year.

“The ‘UFO’ trademarks are very valuable intellectual properties of UFO Magazine,” the lawsuit said. “UFO Magazine has invested substantial time, effort and resources in developing its signature mark and substantially more resources in using the mark to identify and promote its media products.”

The magazine sent Showtime a cease and desist letter in December 2021 regarding the “UFO” series. However, Showtime has continued streaming the show, advertising and promoting it after receiving the letter, the lawsuit said.

The magazine owners are asking for Showtime to be barred from using the “UFO” term in any materials and also for the channel to pay for punitive damages, attorney fees and any other costs the court deem rightful.

According to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, the magazine’s president is Peter Kuyper of Cody. Its legal representative or “registered agent” is Lisa M. Price of Jackson.

The magazine’s initial filing to be registered as a business in Wyoming was done in 2018. It was founded in California in the 1990s.

The term “U.F.O.” first appeared in military accounts about unidentified flying objects in the 1950s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

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Out-Of-State Hunters Suing Wyo Game & Fish For $4 Million For Emotional Pain And Suffering

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A pair of hunters from North Dakota and Pennsylvania have filed a lawsuit against the Wyoming Game and Fish Department alleging they were wrongfully arrested on hunting charges in 2019 and are asking for damages of $2 million each

Blendi Cumani of North Dakota and Roland Shehu of Pennsylvania allege that while hunting in Park County in October 2019, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Warden Chris Queen began an investigation into the killing of three elk that were allegedly abandoned and left to waste in the area.

According to the lawsuit filed in state district court in Park County, the warden detained Cumani and Shehu, ordering them to remain in the county during his investigation and preventing them from returning to their homes.

The men argued in the lawsuit that the warden’s investigation failed to show they shot the elk and evidence actually proved they did not, but Queen pursued criminal charges against the two. Cumani and Shehu faced charges that were punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Wyoming state law forbids the “failure of any person to properly dress and care for any big game animal killed by that person, and if the carcass is reasonably accessible, within 48 hours to take or transport the carcass to the camp of that person, and there properly care for the carcass.”

“During the course of the criminal proceedings … Queen and others with whom he acted … misrepresented to and/or concealed from prosecutors the true and complete facts that had been discovered and developed during the investigation into the deaths of the elk,” the lawsuit said.

Cumani and Shehu requested jury trials, which took place in September 2020. Both men were found not guilty of killing the elk.

The men argued that Queen did not have probable cause to detain or arrest them, which they say violated their constitutional rights. They also accused the department of malicious prosecution.

The men are asking for damages of $2 million each for past and future emotional pain and suffering and for past and future loss of enjoyment of life.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing the statute of limitations on the allegations has expired.

It was not clear if the person who shot the elk was identified or charged.

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Cop Who Shot Laramie Man Argues Qualified Immunity In Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Albany County sheriff’s deputy is arguing he is exempt from a lawsuit filed over his fatal shooting of an unarmed motorist in 2018.

Derek Colling, who shot and killed former Laramie resident Robbie Ramirez in 2018, said in his latest motion in the lawsuit that as a government official, he enjoys “qualified immunity” from lawsuits filed over his actions while on duty. As a result, he is seeking a summary judgment in his favor from the federal court in the lawsuit filed against him by Ramirez’ mother.

Colling shot Ramirez three times after a traffic stop in Laramie in November of 2018. Ramirez was shot after being tasered by Colling.

Ramirez’s mother, Debra Hinkel, filed a lawsuit against Colling, former sheriff David O’Malley, the Albany County Board of Commissioners and current sheriff Aaron Appelhans, claiming excessive force was used against her son, that the sheriff’s office used inadequate hiring practices in hiring Colling and then failed to properly train him.

But Colling, in his request for a summary judgment in his favor, said videos of the incident showed he was acting appropriately.

“Video footage of the incident shows that Colling acted appropriately and that there was no constitutional violation,” documents filed in U.S. Court on March 18 said. “The use of force in response to Ramirez’s actions was not excessive, but justified and objectively reasonable under the circumstances.”

Colling said Ramirez attacked him, which then led to the shooting. His request for a summary judgment denied that he used excessive force.

Hinkel, in her lawsuit, has claimed that defendants deleted five “crucial” seconds of video footage from Colling’s body camera and deleted audio from his dash camera footage, thereby “severely” hindering Hinkel’s ability to show that the shooting was not justified.

Colling’s request did not address the allegation.

Both O’Malley and the county commissioners have also filed documents asking a judge to rule in their favor in the lawsuit.

Before joining the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, Colling shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in 2009 while working as a police officer in Las Vegas, an incident that led to a lengthy lawsuit. He was fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in 2011 for the alleged assault of a videographer trying to film police work, according to WyoFile.

Colling resigned from the sheriff’s office in June 2021.

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Former Laramie Cop Asks For Dismissal Of Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Albany County sheriff’s deputy is asking a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former co-worker that accuses him of racial discrimination.

In court documents filed earlier this week, Christian Handley said that plaintiff Jamin Johnson’s lawsuit accusing Johnson of racism that created a hostile work environment was filed after the statute of limitations for such claims and therefore should be dismissed.

“The only timely allegation of adverse treatment involves a discrete disciplinary action in which Handley supposedly persuaded former Albany County Sheriff David O’Malley to issue an ultimatum to Johnson insisting he either accept a suspension and demotion or resign,” the court documents said. “This allegation is conclusory, devoid of the factual detail necessary to plausibly suggest the decision was the product of racial animus and therefore fails to meet the pleading standards for employment discrimination cases…”

In January, Johnson filed the lawsuit against Handley, alleging that during the 10-year period he worked at the sheriff’s department, from 2007 to 2017, his supervisor Handley “relentlessly” demeaned him with racial slurs and innuendos, even once in front of Johnson’s wife and children.

The lawsuit alleges that at the end of 2016, Handley was promoted to patrol sergeant and “immediately orchestrated a sham disciplinary process” to force Johnson out of the department due to his race.

Handley’s request for dismissal argued that Johnson’s complaint provided no details of the “sham disciplinary actions” and provided no details about specific conduct at issue or how Handley treated him differently from any other officer under his supervision.

Johnson’s lawsuit also said Handley fabricated numerous disciplinary actions against Johnson in rapid succession and then persuaded the department to give Johnson an ultimatum: Johnson could demote himself to a position still under Handley or leave the department.

On Aug. 2, 2017, Johnson resigned.

But Handley’s request said Johnson did not claim to have notified anyone in the sheriff’s office chain of command about the “pernicious racism and discrimination” he allegedly endured for years from Handley.”

Handley’s lawyer also said that Johnson waited for several years to file a lawsuit, doing so only after another lawsuit was filed against the former deputy.

The earlier lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleged Handley and another officer pressured sexual assault victims to recant their allegations. Handley and the other officer were dropped from the lawsuit when a judge ruled they could not be held personally liable in the case. However, the judge also said the officers handled the case poorly.

Johnson’s lawsuit said in 2021, the department conducted an internal investigation, which substantiated Johnson’s claims of racism. It also alleged that the investigation showed Handley had received unfair preferential treatment throughout his employment at the department, which emboldened his misconduct.

According to Johnson’s lawsuit, Handley routinely referred to Johnson, the only Black officer in the department, with slurs such as “jigaboo” and the n-word. It alleged Handley once also asked if Johnson had sex with a Black woman and when Johnson said nothing, Handley said “That would be nasty. That would be like having sex with a dog.”

Johnson is asking for damages due to his lost income and benefits from having to resign, lost employment opportunities, psychological and emotional anguish, distress, pain and suffering and attorneys’ fees.

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Judge Rules In Favor Of Cheyenne Police In Blood Draw Lawsuit, Former Chief Praises Decision

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The former chief of the Cheyenne Police Department on Tuesday praised a federal judge’s decision in favor of the department in a case over a blood draw in a driving under the influence case.

Former Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday he was glad U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled in favor of the police department.

“I think the judge made a good decision once the court looked at all the facts in the case,” he said.

On March 8, U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl ruled in favor of Cheyenne and several individual officers accused of violating the rights of Cheyenne resident Michael A. Sena’s rights.

On Oct. 30, 2019, Sena was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol after he crashed his vehicle and showed other signs of impairment. Following his arrest, he was taken to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, where blood was drawn.

Sena sued the department, arguing that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated because officers used an invalid search warrant to take him to CRMC and make him submit to a blood test against his will.

But Skavdahl said the initial observations and tests by police at the scene, including a breathalyzer result, a failed eye test, slurred speech, the odor of alcohol, poor balance and Sena’s admission to drinking alcohol, all supported a the issuing of a warrant for a blood draw.

Kozak said during his time as police chief, he and the department were sued about two to four times a year, so the situation was nothing new. However, this case was definitely unique, he said.

“The key is to make sure we have a good basis for training and policies and to have good leadership in place,” he said. “It’s part of the job, being sued. We’ve never had judgement against us, that held us liable, during my entire career in law enforcement. You’re going to get sued, but you do your job right, it’s going to be OK.”

Sena also claimed that he was physically assaulted by an officer who was trying to get him to cooperate for the blood draw. The officer’s statement “You know you’re going to end up in the hospital, right?” should be considered excessive force under the Fourth Amendment, Sena said.

But Skavdahl wrote than when read in context, the officer’s statement about the hospital did not appear to threaten violence, but referenced going to the hospital for a compulsory blood draw.

“This comment does not seem to rise to the level of threatening language. Similarly, the officer’s threat to perform facedown stabilization, absent any accompanying physical act, is not excessive force,” Skavdahl wrote.

Kozak said the lawsuit was unusual because it challenged a very common police practice.

“The allegation is that we violated his constitutional rights by obtaining a search warrant…so it’s kind of odd we were being sued for doing what most officers are trained to do,” he said.

He noted that it takes about 10 minutes for an officer to obtain a search warrant for a blood draw.

Kozak’s successor also praised Skavdahl’s decision last week.

“The judgment confirms that the officer’s actions in the arrest of Sena were constitutionally sound, and that Sena’s claims were without merit,” Cheyenne Police Chief Mark Francisco said. “Further, the judgment confirms the department’s training and policies are in line with state statute.”

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Judge Allows Alec Baldwin’s NY Attorney To Represent Him In Wyoming Defamation Case

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that actor Alec Baldwin’s New York attorney can represent him in Wyoming in the $25 million defamation lawsuit filed against Baldwin by the family of a Wyoming man killed in action in Afghanistan.

Judge Kelly Rankin approved a request that attorney Luke Nikas, who is not licensed to practice law in Wyoming, be allowed to represent Baldwin in the case.

Nikas holds a degree from Harvard Law School and his practice areas range from media and entertainment litigation to art litigation.

Nikas has represented Baldwin in other cases, most recently regarding the actor’s accidental shooting and killing of a cinematographer and injuring of the director on the film set, “Rust.” Baldwin has been named in several lawsuits regarding the incident, in which he was practicing for a scene that required him to draw a gun.

Baldwin has claimed no legal responsibility for the cinematographer’s death.

In the Wyoming case, Baldwin is accused of defaming multiple members of Rylee McCollum’s family on Instagram. McCollum was the U.S. Marine from Jackson who was killed as the United States was pulling out of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Three attorneys from the Cheyenne law firm Long, Reimer and Winegar have submitted notices to the court that they will be Baldwin’s local counsel.

Roice and Cheyenne McCollum, the sisters of Rylee McCollum, and his widow Jiennah McCollum are asking for damages of at least $25 million in the lawsuit filed in January.

According to the lawsuit, Baldwin first contacted the McCollum family in August, sending Rylee’s sister Roice McCollum a check for $5,000 to help Rylee’s wife and child.

The check was “a tribute to a fallen soldier,” Baldwin told Roice.

Court documents state that on Jan. 3, Roice posted a photo on her Instagram page that she took on Jan. 6, 2021, showing a crowd of demonstrators at the Washington Monument. Roice posted the photo, the lawsuit said, in anticipation of the 1-year anniversary of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol.

While Roice attended a demonstration in Washington, D.C., in support of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, she was not involved in the subsequent invasion of the U.S. Capitol and while she was later interviewed by the FBI, she was never accused of or charged with a crime.

Baldwin commented on Roice’s posting, asking, “Are you the same woman I sent the $ for your sister’s husband who was killed during the Afghanistan exit?”

Upon confirmation that she was the sister of Rylee McCollum, Baldwin sent private messages Roice and accused her of being an insurrectionist.

“When I sent the $ for your late brother, out of real respect for his service to this country, I didn’t know you were a January 6th rioter,” Baldwin wrote in one message.

Roice responded by telling the actor that protesting was legal in the United States and that she had already spoken with the FBI, but he persisted, according to the lawsuit.

“Your activities resulted in the unlawful destruction of government property, the death of a law enforcement officer, an assault on the certification of the presidential election. I reposted your photo. Good luck,” Baldwin wrote back.

Baldwin later claimed on social media that he was trying to point out irony in his reposting of her photo, by juxtaposing her brother’s sacrifice for the country with Roice being an “insurrectionist.”

Baldwin reposted Roice’s photo on his own Instagram account, which has 2.4 million followers, discussing the Capitol attack and mentioning Roice’s involvement in the protest on Jan. 6, 2021.

Within 20 minutes of his post, Roice began to receive hostile, aggressive and hateful messages from Baldwin’s followers, the lawsuit said.

One message said “Get raped and die, you worthless [expletive]. Your brother got what he deserved.” Roice forwarded this message on to Baldwin, sarcastically thanking him for the post.

Baldwin ultimately followed the person who sent the message on Instagram. He also chimed in on the feed, calling Roice an insurrectionist and claiming she participated in the riot.

He also misidentified Jiennah as an insurrectionist in one Instagram comment, although she was not in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021. People began sending hateful and threatening messages Jiennah and Cheyenne McCollum, Rylee’s eldest sister, the lawsuit said.

Other messages called on Baldwin to get a refund of his money and comparing the McCollum family to ISIS and Nazis.

Baldwin did nothing to stop his followers from contacting the family, the lawsuit said.

“Baldwin’s conduct was negligent and reckless as he should have known that making the allegations he did against Plaintiffs to his millions of followers would cause Plaintiffs harm,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit claims the three women have suffered from headaches, nausea, loss of sleep, severe anxiety, mental distress and fear for their lives due to Baldwin’s post.

The lawsuit seeks damages for all three women on allegations of defamation, invasion of privacy, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress

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Woman Suing Former Laramie Cop, County Officials Over Evidence In Son’s 2018 Death

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The mother of a man killed by a former Albany County sheriff’s deputy in 2018 is suing several people, alleging that they were involved in the destruction and alteration of video and audio evidence from the shooting.

Debra Hinkel’s lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on March 10. Her son, Robbie Ramirez, was shot and killed by former deputy Derek Colling in November 2018.

Hinkel is suing Colling, former sheriff David O’Malley, the Albany County Board of Commissioners and current Albany County Sheriff Aaron Applehans. However, the lawsuit does note that the motion is not actually directed at Applehans, who took over for O’Malley after the Ramirez shooting.

Colling, who was a corporal with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, shot and killed Robbie Ramirez, 39, during an altercation that occurred after a traffic stop in November 2018. He was cleared of wrongdoing in the incident by a grand jury.

In the lawsuit, Hinkel alleges that the defendants, excluding Applehans, deleted five “crucial” seconds of video footage from Colling’s body camera and deleted audio from his dash camera footage, thereby “severely” hindering Hinkel’s ability to show that the shooting was not justified.

She also claims that the county commissioners presented the altered copies of both videos to the public, and assumes this is the same evidence presented to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and the grand jury that cleared Colling.

“The ‘copy’ of Deputy Colling’s body camera ends one second before Colling opened fire on Ramirez,” the lawsuit states. “Because Colling’s body camera was set up to track the movements of his firearm, the five seconds of deleted footage likely would have shown Ramirez badly wounded and face down on the ground when Colling killed him with two shots to the back.”

Hinkel additionally alleged that the Albany County Sheriff’s Office removed the audio from Colling’s dash cam footage.

The lawsuit also notes that Albany County Sheriff Lt. John Beeston testified to intentionally deleting the original body camera and dash cam footage less than a year after the shooting took place.

“It is unclear what this video showed, but at a minimum, it would have shown Colling’s demeanor and actions on the morning of the shooting,” the court documents state.

Colling and O’Malley disputed Hinkel’s claims in court documents filed on Friday.

Colling also shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in 2009 while working as a police officer in Las Vegas, a shooting that led to a lengthy lawsuit. He was fired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in 2011 for an alleged assault of a videographer trying to film police work, according to WyoFile.

Colling resigned from the sheriff’s office in June 2021.

Hinkel previously filed another lawsuit regarding her son’s death, calling it a miscarriage of justice.

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ACLU Of Wyoming Sues State Over Teton County Sheriff’s Sobriety Program

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming is suing the state over a Teton County-based sobriety program that the organization alleges violates people’s constitutional rights.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court on behalf of two men, Alfredo Guillermo Sanchez and David Christopher Bell, who were previous participants in the “Wyoming 24/7 Sobriety Program,” which requires defendants in drunk driving cases to remain sober between their arrest and trial.

Participants in the program must adhere to certain requirements, including twice-daily “breathalyzer” tests, or face detention.

But the ACLU, in its lawsuit, alleged such requirements amount to a warrantless search of someone who has not yet been convicted of a crime in violation of the Constitution.

“Requiring participants to submit to warrantless searches is problematic for all persons who have been arrested and merely accused of an offense but who are not yet convicted,” said Stephanie Amiotte, ACLU of Wyoming legal director. “Pretrial participants in Wyoming’s 24/7 Sobriety Program should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and are entitled to due process and meaningful hearings. Without that, the 27/7 Program is an egregious violation of their constitutional rights.”

The Wyoming 24/7 Sobriety Program is a court-based management program and requires defendants to remain sober between their arrest and trial.

In the program, most participants have to take breathalyzer tests twice a day in a narrow period of time, between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

If participants fail the tests, don’t show up or arrive more than 30 minutes late more than three times results in immediate arrest and jail time until a hearing is scheduled, which can take a couple hours or up to a day.

“No rule, regulation or statute authorizes a sheriff in Wyoming to arrest a person without a warrant for merely being late,” ACLU officials said Monday.

Program participants are also charged a $30 enrollment fee and pay $2 per breath test, which can amount to hundreds of dollars over a long period of time.

According to the lawsuit, between Sanchez and Ball, the men submitted to nearly 300 breathalyzer tests while awaiting trial.

Both Sanchez and Bell were arrested for arriving late to their breathalyzer test. The ACLU alleges more than one person was also arrested and held in jail after giving a negative alcohol test.

The program was created by a state law in 2014 and was originally designed for repeat offenders of alcohol and drug-related arrests. In Teton County, it is also being used as a pretrial condition for first-time offenders following an amendment of the law in 2019.

The ACLU claims that the 24/7 Program violates the Fourth Amendment for potentially unreasonable searches and seizures, the Eighth Amendment for potentially depriving participants of reasonable bail and bail conditions and the 14th Amendment for depriving participants of liberty through sometimes repeated pre-trial arrests potentially without due process of law.

“For people who have been arrested but not convicted, the 24/7 program and its fees looks like a criminal sentence,” Amiotte said. “Unlawful search and seizure does nothing to improve public safety. Detaining people for running late, often for circumstances beyond their control like heavy traffic or a mistake like oversleeping due to late work hours, does nothing to improve public safety. It’s simply an incredibly punitive pretrial release condition, especially for first-time suspected offenders, that wreaks havoc on their families and jobs and their mental, physical and emotional health.”

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Wyoming Mask Mandate Lawsuit Dismissed

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit against the state of Wyoming and several school districts over mandates issued during the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal said in her order to dismiss the lawsuit that the plaintiffs in the case, including the parents of several Wyoming students, failed to respond in time to seven motions filed by defendants in the case seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.

“This is the second time that plaintiffs have failed to timely respond to several motions to dismiss, despite this court’s orders reminding them of the briefing deadlines…and warning that the court would consider future motions deemed confessed for lack of timely response, their culpability would seem high,” Freudenthal wrote in her ruling.

The lawsuit at one point included as plaintiffs Grace Smith, the teenager arrested at Laramie High School last fall for trespassing after refusing to wear a mask, and her father. But they were no longer involved with the lawsuit as of January.

The initial lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 2 alleged that rules adopted by some school districts requiring students to wear masks while in class, observe social distancing and to quarantine when exposed to coronavirus have been improperly adopted.

The lawsuit asked the court to find there was never an imminent threat to Wyoming’s residents from coronavirus, that Gov. Mark Gordon’s initial emergency declaration was unconstitutional, that school districts have no authority to impose such mandates and asks that all such orders should be lifted immediately.

The lawsuit was amended in January, after a December filing by Freudenthal called the original complaint filed on behalf of Grace Smith and others a “confused jumble of factual assertions…extensive citations to articles and other materials of nonparties…and legal arguments.”

Several plaintiffs and defendants have come and gone from the lawsuit in recent months.

Albany County School District No. 1, Sheridan County School District No. 2, Laramie County School District No. 1, Uinta County School District No. 6, Sweetwater County School District No. 2, Goshen County School District No. 1, the Sheridan Police Department, Wyoming Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist and Wyoming Department of Health interim Director Stefan Johansson were all dismissed from the lawsuit between December and January.

Gov. Mark Gordon, who was once involved in the lawsuit, announced Monday that he has begun the process to end Wyoming’s COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, two years after it was put in place.

The declaration will end March 14, two years after COVID was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

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Woman Files Lawsuit Against BNSF Over Wind River Crash That Killed Her Father

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against BNSF Railway Company in connection with a vehicle crash that killed her father in the Wind River Canyon last summer.

Kellie Martin, a Montana resident, filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court and asked for an damages in an amount to be determined in trial.

In the lawsuit, Martin alleged that BNSF was negligent in hiring, retaining, training, entrusting and supervising the employee who was driving a BNSF vehicle that struck the vehicle her father was driving last summer, killing him. Since the man was an employee of the company and driving in a BNSF vehicle, the company is liable for her father’s death, the lawsuit said.

According to the court documents, around 5:30 p.m. on June 18, 73-year-old Patrick Moore was traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 20 in the Wind River Canyon.

At the same time, Douglas Wallage, a BNSF employee driving a company truck, was headed southbound on the same highway.

Wallage passed a Chevy pickup while on the highway, and then attempted to pass a Cadillac Escalade towing a boat and trailer.

However, when he entered the northbound lane to pass the Cadillac, he hit Patrick Moore’s vehicle head-on, killing Moore.

“Wallage breached his duty to operate the BNSF vehicle in a safe, prudent and responsible manner and to keep an eye out [for] other vehicles when he negligently entered Moore’s lane of traffic causing a head-on collision with Moore’s vehicle at highway speeds,” the lawsuit said. “Wallage’s conduct described above was outrageous and utterly reckless and a reasonable person would know that such outrageous conduct was highly likely to injure or kill someone.”

According to a Wyoming Highway Patrol crash report, Moore was not wearing his seatbelt when the crash occurred.

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Powell Public Works Employee Claims Gender Discrimination In Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Powell public works department employee is suing the Park County Board of Commissioners and the Park County Public Works Department, alleging she was paid less than her male counterparts because of gender discrimination.

According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court, Sparkie Cornett worked as a seasonal employee for the county’s public works department from 2014 until 2016, when she was hired on as a full-time equipment operator.

Cornett was trained to drive a commercial truck, operate a front-end loader and other equipment, repair potholes, lay gravel and more. She was hired at $13.71 per hour.

Cornett performed her job with equal skill, effort and responsibility and under the same conditions as the men in the department, the lawsuit said. In 2017, she was promoted and received a pay raise to $14.59 an hour and was given a cost-of-living adjustment (along with the rest of the department) one year later.

Cornett was again promoted but without a payment increase, and in June 2018, she was transferred to the Powell office of the Public Works Department, where she still is employed. She is supervised by Delray “Paco” Johnson, who has been her boss since her transfer.

Upon her transfer to Powell, Cornett was no longer trained on new equipment and was separated from the rest of the crew in work duties, which stalled her career and pay increases, the lawsuit said.

She was also not allowed to work overtime on Fridays, although her male counterparts were allowed to do so.

In 2018, the department hired a man as a higher-level equipment operator, although he did not meet the qualifications for the job and had to be trained to operate the heavy equipment and on the county road systems, the lawsuit said In 2020, this man was paid $43,494.36.

In 2019, another man was hired to be a higher-level equipment operator, but did not have the experience necessary for the job, so he had to be trained. In 2020, this man was paid $34,742.60, the lawsuit said.

In 2020, Cornett was paid $32,041.01 for performing work equal to that performed by the other two men. This was again the case in 2021, the lawsuit said.

While Cornett was promoted twice in 2021 and her pay was increased to $17.40 an hour, she claimed in the lawsuit that she had more seniority, experience operating heavy equipment and knowledge of the county road systems than the two men who were hired at a higher salary.

She is asking for back pay and all other appropriate monetary and equitable relief in an amount to be determined by a jury at trial.

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Natrona School District’s Lawsuit Against E-Cig Maker Juul Takes National Stage

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The Natrona County School District’s lawsuit against e-cigarette giant JUUL Labs has been selected as one of 12 to indicate how attorneys should proceed with more than 250 similar lawsuits filed across the country.

The lawsuit has been selected as a “bellwether” case, one of a dozen that will be used to show  how JUUL might respond to other lawsuits, whether that be to settle out of court or go to trial, said Jason Ochs, the Jackson-based personal injury attorney representing Natrona County School District No. 1.

Wyoming’s lawsuit is one of many filed across the country against the e-cigarette company that have been grouped together based on similar allegations against JUUL, which makes up about 85% of the e-cigarette market.

The first bellwether case involving San Francisco Unified School District is set to go to trial in June 2023 in northern California federal district court. Natrona County’s case, which will be tried in Wyoming’s U.S. District Court, has yet to be scheduled. 

Borrowing A Page from Big Tobacco’s Playbook

The 81-page complaint filed by Ochs in June of 2020 laid out a long list of allegations against JUUL, including that it targeted marketing directed specifically at susceptible underage teenagers. 

These marketing techniques using influential social media influencers, Ochs argued, fueled a nationwide epidemic of young smokers hooked on “highly addictive nicotine products” at great profit for itself.

The lawsuit further noted the success of the marketing, with a 78% increase seen in e-cigarette use among high school students between 2017 and 2018 and a 48% increase in middle-school users. 

Other complaints against the company included allegations that it buried damaging studies about the potency and addictive properties of the company’s products. 

The lawsuit cited marketing strategies of the past used by large tobacco companies to attract younger users. It alleged that JUUL used targeted marketing campaigns “to portray its e-cigarette products as trend-setting, stylish and used by the type of people teenagers aspire to be” by using social media influencers and third-party affiliates who marketed the product directly to students. 

The lawsuit additionally claims the e-cigarette company also “misrepresented the amount of nicotine a JUUL device delivers to a user’s bloodstream and the increased risk of nicotine addiction” and marketed the product as a healthy alternative to cigarette smoking. It also designed its products be both aesthetically appealing and to look like USB “thumb drives” for easy concealment.

Earlier Settlements

JUUL has already settled several similar lawsuits filed in other states.

In a November 2021 settlement with the state of Arizona, JUUL agreed to pay $14.5 million to the state while vowing publicly to “reset our company” and “to advance a fully regulated, science-based marketplace for vapor products” through their support of Tobacco 21. The program is a nationwide marketing campaign that offers retailers marketing materials to alert consumers that nationally, the minimum age for tobacco use has been set at 21.

Earlier in 2021, the e-cigarette company also paid out a $40 million settlement with the state of North Carolina. 

In the wake of the settlements, the e-cigarette manufacturer vowed to change its practices to no longer market to teenage users.

 “We seek to continue to earn trust through action. Over the past two years, for example, we ceased the distribution of our non-tobacco, non-menthol flavored products in advance of FDA guidance and halted all mass market product advertising,” JUUL Labs said in a statement following the payout. “This settlement is another step in that direction.”

Track Record

Ochs has a track record of taking on corporate giants who he feels have crossed the line when it comes to public safety through targeted marketing and lack of oversight. 

In January, Ochs announced a $52 million settlement for a handful of Wyoming counties and municipalities in the “OneWyo Opioid Settlement Agreement.” Wyoming’s share came out of the $26 billion global settlement against McKesson, Cardinal Health and other major pharmaceutical distributors accused of fueling the nationwide opioid epidemic. 

Both Natrona County and Casper received payouts from that settlement, as did the cities of Cheyenne, Rock Springs, Riverton, and Laramie, Sweetwater and Carbon counties. 

Much like the opioid lawsuit, taking on the e-cigarette giant was personal for Ochs. One of his former clients told him about his teenage children who were hooked on the products, prompting Ochs to check it out for himself.

He was dismayed by the easily disguised e-cigarette devices as well as the deceptively benign flavorful JUUL pods and high concentration of nicotine.   

Further investigation into the marketing techniques and the dangerous manner in which he felt these products were being peddled to young teenagers drove him to take action.

“The best way to abate the problem was to represent the school district as opposed to individual families,” he told Cowboy State Daily.


Jason Ochs

To this end, with the exception of Natrona County, no other school districts have shown interest in signing on to the lawsuit, despite the lack of cost and work on their part, he said.

“When I tell them it’s free, and I’ll do all the work, they look at me skeptically,” he said, noting that the past two years of COVID have imposed restraints on the districts that seem to make them weary of taking anything else on at this point.

The Natrona County School District, however, was eager to sign on.

In a May 11, 2020, NCSD Board of Trustees work session, the attorney for the district, Craig Silva, signaled the district’s willingness to sign on to the lawsuit, indicating that vaping is a problem among Natrona County students based on feedback from school principals, law enforcement and community members.

“Here in Natrona County, two out of three students in high school are regularly vaping or about 60% of the high school population and in the middle schools,” Silva told the board, urging it to take leadership on the growing issue. “What that means is if you do that, you’re going to be the lead school district – the only district in the state – that at least engaged counsel to investigate and possibly bring action against JUUL.”

The Board voted unanimously at the work session to enter the lawsuit.

Other districts can also join, Ochs said, though the four-year statute of limitations is quickly closing with two years left to sign on.

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Milwaukee Brewers Sue Wyoming Sauce Company

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette sauce company is being sued by the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team on allegations it reneged on a sponsorship agreement.

The Brewers are seeking more than $200,000 from the Wyoming Sauce Co., alleging the company is guilty of breach of contract.

According to a lawsuit filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court in Wisconsin on Feb. 4, Wyoming Sauce and the Brewers entered into a sponsorship agreement in July 2018. Under the agreement, Wyoming Sauce agreed to be a sponsor for the team for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons, giving it certain signage and promotional rights.

According to the lawsuit, the sauce company agreed to pay the Brewers $100,000 in 2019, $105,000 in 2020 and $110,000 in 2021 for sponsorship rights.

Wyoming Sauce paid the 2019 sponsorship fee, the lawsuit said, but asked for changes in its agreement for the 2020 season, which was shortened by the coronavirus and did not begin until July 24.

The Brewers agreed to cancel Wyoming Sauce’s 2020 sponsorship and make up the lost year with a sponsorship in 2022.

However, Wyoming Sauce failed to pay its sponsorship fee in 2021, the lawsuit said.

The Brewers sent a “demand letter” to the company in November seeking payment of the 2021 sponsorship fee, the lawsuit said.

“Since the delivery of the Demand Letter, the Club has repeatedly attempted to make contact with (Wyoming Sauce), with no success,” it said. “Sponsor has ceased responding to and communicating with the club.”

The April 1 deadline for the payment of the 2022 sponsorship fee is approaching, the lawsuit said, and “as a result of the sponsor’s material breach, the club is entitled to payment of the 2022 sponsorship fee as damages.”

The lawsuit asked for at least $215,000 in damages and legal fees.

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Baldwin Given Until April To Respond To Fallen Wyoming Marine’s Family Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Actor Alec Baldwin has been given until April 4 to respond to a defamation lawsuit filed by the family of a U.S. Marine from Wyoming who was killed last August.

Baldwin, in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Wyoming, waived the requirement that a summons be served to him personally in New York, but retained the right to challenge the location of the trial, the court’s jurisdiction over the claims against him and the lawsuit itself.

He has been given 60 days to respond to the lawsuit from Feb. 3, the date the request for a waiver from the summons requirement was sent.

Roice and Cheyenne McCollum, the sisters of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, and his widow Jiennah McCollum are asking for damages of at least $25 million in the lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court in Wyoming.

According to the lawsuit, Baldwin first contacted the McCollum family in August after Rylee McCollum was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan.

Baldwin reached out to Roice McCollum, Rylee’s older sister, and sent her a check for $5,000 for Jiennah McCollum and her child.

The check was “a tribute to a fallen soldier,” Baldwin told Roice.

The court documents state that on Jan. 3, Roice posted a photo on her Instagram page that she took on Jan. 6, 2021, showing a crowd of demonstrators at the Washington Monument. Roice posted the photo, the lawsuit said, in anticipation of the 1-year anniversary of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol.

While Roice attended a demonstration in Washington, D.C., in support of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, she was not involved in the riot and while she was later interviewed by the FBI, she was never accused of or charged with a crime.

Baldwin commented on Roice’s posting, asking, “Are you the same woman I sent the $ for your sister’s husband who was killed during the Afghanistan exit?”

Upon confirmation that she was the sister of Rylee McCollum, Baldwin sent private messages Roice and accused her of being an insurrectionist.

“When I sent the $ for your late brother, out of real respect for his service to this country, I didn’t know you were a January 6th rioter,” Baldwin wrote in one message.

Roice responded by telling the actor that protesting was legal in the United States and that she had already spoken with the FBI, but he persisted, according to the lawsuit.

“Your activities resulted in the unlawful destruction of government property, the death of a law enforcement officer, an assault on the certification of the presidential election. I reposted your photo. Good luck,” Baldwin wrote back.

Baldwin later claimed on social media that he was trying to point out irony in his reposting of her photo, by juxtaposing her brother’s sacrifice for the country with Roice being an “insurrectionist.”

Baldwin reposted Roice’s photo on his own Instagram account, which has 2.4 million followers, discussing the Capitol attack and mentioning Roice’s involvement in the protest on Jan. 6, 2021.

Within 20 minutes of his post, Roice began to receive hostile, aggressive and hateful messages from Baldwin’s followers, the lawsuit said.

One message said “Get raped and die, you worthless [expletive]. Your brother got what he deserved.” Roice forwarded this message on to Baldwin, sarcastically thanking him for the post.

Baldwin ultimately followed the person who sent the message on Instagram. He also chimed in on the feed, calling Roice an insurrectionist and claiming she participated in the riot.

He also misidentified Jiennah as an insurrectionist in one Instagram comment, although she was not in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021. People began sending hateful and threatening messages Jiennah and Cheyenne McCollum, Rylee’s eldest sister.

Other messages called on Baldwin to get a refund of his money and comparing the McCollum family to ISIS and Nazis.

Baldwin did nothing to stop his followers from contacting the family, the lawsuit said.

“Baldwin’s conduct was negligent and reckless as he should have known that making the allegations he did against Plaintiffs to his millions of followers would cause Plaintiffs harm,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit claims the three women have suffered from headaches, nausea, loss of sleep, severe anxiety, mental distress and fear for their lives due to Baldwin’s post.

The lawsuit seeks damages for all three women on allegations of defamation, invasion of privacy, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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Glenrock Officials Deny Wrongful Termination Of Former Police Chief

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Glenrock officials have asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought against them by the town’s former police chief, who is accusing them of wrongful termination.

In the town’s response to a lawsuit filed by former Chief David Theel, Glenrock’s mayor, interim police Chief Colter Felton, the town clerk and council member John Moulton denied that Theel was wrongfully terminated or that their behavior and actions causes any alleged injuries or damages suffered by Theel and his wife, Carmen, who is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The town officials also argued that they should be entitled to qualified immunity because the incident involved governmental employees and that the statute of limitations for action by Theel has passed.

According to the original lawsuit, filed in December, Theel was appointed by Mayor Bruce Roumell as police chief in February 2019, but one year later, the town initiated an investigation regarding Theel, his interactions with employees and issues surrounding a certain police officer.

“Employee interactions that were part of this investigation include allegations of [Theel] overreacting, being condescending and being a generally unpleasant boss,” the original lawsuit said.

The lawsuit noted the allegations were not made within 10 working days of the alleged incidents as required by the town’s policy manual.

An investigation showed that there were morale problems, and the lawsuit alleged Glenrock officials did “nothing” as a result.

Theel claimed in the lawsuit that he was never informed of the allegations.

He then alleged that in February 2021, rumors about a Glenrock teacher and student having an inappropriate relationship began to circulate around town, and Theel assigned an investigator to look into the matter.

Around six days after initiating the investigation, Roumell placed Theel on administrative leave “for reasons that [Theel] failed to investigate the matter or hindered or influenced the investigation.”

Roumell and Felton began emailing around this time, stating Theel was not allowed to contact the police department or its employees.

Theel was not the subject of any disciplinary action, the lawsuit said.

A second investigation regarding Theel’s investigation of the teacher and student was initiated, and Theel claimed in the lawsuit that the allegations against him were unfounded.

However, he said members of the police department issued a letter of no confidence in him, alleging there were citizen complaints against him, that Theel was insubordinate, that he created a hostile work environment, was a narcissist and that he failed to investigate a matter concerning a Glenrock officer. One of the people who signed the letter is married to councilman Moulton and worked at the department as a dispatcher.

In May 2021, a letter from the town council’s attorney was issued to the Theels, which stated he and his wife needed to stop “acting like the victim” and made accusations regarding Theel being involved with racketeering at his former employment.

Theel requested a pre-termination hearing, but also asking for councilmen Moulton and Roy Kincaid to be recused from it due to alleged conflicts of interest. This was not granted.

In October, three council members voted to fire Theel, while two did not.

Theel claimed city personnel harassed him and his family during his administrative leave and after he was fired, noting that they would “excessively” drive past his home, which is not on a through street. He also alleged that police department employees would walk past his house and point.

“The Theels felt as if they were under surveillance by police and town personnel,” the lawsuit said.

The Theels are asking for unspecified damages including for loss of income, reduced capacity to earn, embarrassment, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.

Felton has filed a separate request to dismiss the lawsuit against him, saying it makes few allegations against him and none of those allegations are sufficient for a claim against him.

Glenrock Town Council members did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Tuesday.

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Ohio Woman Suing Casper Motel After Tripping On Carpet

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An elderly Ohio woman is suing a Casper motel after she tripped on a carpet and broke her femur in September, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

According to the documents, Dianne Snyder, 74, was visiting Wyoming from Ohio with her husband on Sept. 11, 2021. The couple decided to stay at the National 9 Inn, also known as the Showboat Motel, because they liked the nautical theme.

As the Snyders checked into the motel, they were given a wagon to carry their luggage in and instructed to not use the front or side door of the building, only the back, even though their room was near the front of the building. There were “multiple” rugs on top of the carpet and on top of tile flooring toward the front door.

The wagon the Snyders were given was not a typical luggage cart, as it was low to the ground and had a handle that was not fixed in place, the lawsuit said. Snyder guided the wagon and her husband pushed it from behind.

The couple wheeled the wagon through the back door to get their luggage. As they wheeled the cart back toward the front of the motel, Snyder tripped and fell over a rug “that had been placed on top of an especially frayed portion of the motel’s indoor carpet.”

She could not hold the wagon’s handle for support, as it was not fixed in place. She fell to the side and landed on the tile floor that adjoined the hallway, hearing a crack.

Her left shoulder, hip and knee hit the flooring.

Snyder was then transported by ambulance to the Wyoming Medical Center, where she stayed for 11 days. She had broken her femur in two places and underwent surgery.

According to the lawsuit, Snyder’s injuries have impacted her ability to walk and sleep normally and she is consistently in pain. She has also had to use walking aides since the incident.

The lawsuit accuses the motel for breaching its duty of care to Snyder by failing to warn or repair the dangerous conditions in the common areas, failing to discover and mitigate the dangerous condition existing in the area, providing Snyder dangerous equipment and other failures to act.

The lawsuit also accuses the motel of negligence.

Snyder is asking for punitive and exemplary damages.

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Nonprofit Suing Wyoming State Hospital For Restricting Access To Patients

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne nonprofit advocacy organization is suing the administrators of the Wyoming State Hospital and Wyoming Department of Health for restricting access to the hospital’s patients.

Protection and Advocacy Systems is a federally-funded organization that works at the state level to protect people with disabilities by empowering them and advocating on their behalf. There are 57 of these organizations in the United States.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 18 in U.S. District Court and named WDH interim director Stefan Johansson and WSH administrator Paul Mullenax as defendants. The health department oversees the hospital.

Protection and Advocacy is asking for a judge to prevent Johansson and Mullenax from restricting “full, complete and meaningful access by [P&A] to patients of the Wyoming State Hospital.”

The organization accused hospital officials and the state of Wyoming repeatedly attempting to block, delay, impede and obstruct its federal access authority.

The documents also alleged that since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the organization staffers began to experience increased telephone access deprivations when attempting to contact hospital patients.

A number of examples were given, with one instance noting a P&A advocate attempting to get in touch with a patient over a nearly two week period, only to find out they were being discharged once the advocate spoke with the patient.

In September 2021, P&A, Mullenax, Johansson and their attorneys participated in a “lengthy” meeting in attempt to resolve the telephone access deprivation, but was unsuccessful.

Dozens of more instances of P&A being denied access to WSH patients were detailed in the lawsuit and suggested that hospital employees were using their caller IDs to screen calls from the organization’s advocates.

The lawsuit noted several other instances of what happens when the facilities operated “in walled secrecy,” such as patients being raped by staff, leaving a patient in a chair for more than 24 hours and allowing them to be bit countless times by ants or even patients dying.

In addition to asking for access to WSH patients in need, P&A also asked for the defendants to pay its attorneys fees and other incurred costs.

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Mask Mandate Lawsuit Revised, Smiths No Longer Plaintiffs

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grace Smith and her father Andy, the teenager and her father at the center of a mask mandate controversy in Laramie, have been removed as plaintiffs from a lawsuit against the state and several school districts over mask mandates.

The lawsuit was amended this week, after a December filing by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal called the complaint filed on behalf of former Laramie High School student Grace Smith and others a “confused jumble of factual assertions…extensive citations to articles and other materials of nonparties…and legal arguments.”

It was not clear why the Smiths were no longer listed on the lawsuit, but since it was first filed, plaintiffs and defendants have both been removed.

Albany County School District No. 1, Sheridan County School District No. 2, Laramie County School District No. 1, Uinta County School District No. 6, Sweetwater County School District No. 2, Goshen County School District No. 1, the Sheridan Police Department, Wyoming Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist and Wyoming Department of Health interim Director Stefan Johansson have all been removed from the lawsuit within the last month.

“Plaintiffs repeat many legal arguments verbatim several times,” said Freudenthal’s order dismissing several of the parties from the lawsuit. “In short, the amended complaint is … overly long, confused, repetitive, argumentative and generic in its allegations.”

The initial lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 2 alleged that rules adopted by some districts requiring students to wear masks while in class, observe social distancing and to quarantine when exposed to coronavirus have been improperly adopted.

The lawsuit asked the court to find there was never an imminent threat to Wyoming’s residents from coronavirus, that Gov. Mark Gordon’s initial emergency declaration was unconstitutional, that school districts have no authority to impose such mandates and asks that all such orders should be lifted immediately.

Last month, as the school districts were seeking dismissal from the lawsuit, one organization actually filed a motion to join as defendants.

Families for Healthy Communities, a Wyoming nonprofit membership organization, filed a motion to intervene and join the lawsuit on Dec. 9. In its motion, Families for Healthy Communities said it wanted a say in the lawsuit because it has an interest in protecting the health of its student members and their families from COVID through masking, which would be impaired if the lawsuit succeeds in eliminating mask requirements in schools.

“Families’ members support face mask requirements in school…more stringent than (Wyoming Health Department) guidelines, to protect their health and that of their fellow students, teachers, staff and of their families and community,” the motion read.

Families’ lawyers argued that the state and school districts involved in the lawsuit could not adequately represent the nonprofit organization’s interests, because “governments are prone to making shifts in policy.”

“It is no secret that (the state and school districts) are under significant pressure to eliminate their COVID-19 response policies,” the motion said.

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Idaho Couple Suing Wyoming Attorney, Snowplow Driver For Negligence

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Idaho couple is suing a Wyoming Department of Transportation snowplow driver for negligence over a 2019 accident in Teton County and their former attorney on allegations he failed to file legal documents on time.

Jacquelyn and Jeffrey Battle are suing Alex F. Freeburg, a Jackson attorney, for failing to file notice of a claim against Shirley Weerheim, a former snowplow driver, and the state of Wyoming in a timely manner.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Weerheim was operating a snowplow in Teton County on January 29, 2019 when it collided with a car, pushing that car into the one driven by the Battles.

The lawsuit accused Weerheim of driving “carelessly and recklessly” on a highway at the time of the accident and seeks damages from the DOT and her on allegations of negligence.

“Ms. Weerheim was following too closely, traveling too fast for conditions and failed to keep a proper lookout and was otherwise negligent in the operation of the snowplow,” the lawsuit alleged.

Freeburg, meanwhile, was accused of professional negligence for failing to file a claim on the Battles’ behalf with the state in a timely fashion.

Under Wyoming law, to obtain damages from a government entity or employee, person must first file a claim with the agency involved. If the claim is denied, then a lawsuit can commence. The claim must be filed within two years of the incident.

According to the lawsuit, on Jan. 27, 2021, Freeburg sent notices of governmental claims to the state General Services Division. The notices were received by the state on Feb. 1, 2021, just beyond the two-year time period for filing such claims.

Freeburg was notified that same day by the GSD that the claims had been rejected as untimely, since more than two years had passed since the date of the wreck.

Around March 1, 2021, Freeburg contacted the Battles to advise them he had missed the filing deadline for their case. They were “shocked and dismayed,” the lawsuit said, adding Freeburg offered no remedy or explanation.

According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Freeburg not only failed to timely file the sufficient claims notices, but also failed to “timely investigate the claims or to take any appropriate action” on behalf of the Battles. They also claim he was negligent in other ways, such as failing to meet the applicable standards of care for attorneys.

The Battles are asking for damages for medical expenses incurred both in the past and “which can reasonably be expected to be incurred in the future,” loss of wages in the past and future, past and future pain and suffering and loss of physicality in Jacquelyn Battle due to injuries sustained in the crash and loss of enjoyment of life.

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Former Albany County Sheriff’s Deputy Sues For Racial Discrimination

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Albany County sheriff’s deputy is suing a sergeant in the department for racial discrimination, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

According to court documents, Jamin Johnson worked for the department for 10 years, from 2007 to 2017. During that time, he alleges that Sgt. Christian Handley, his supervisor, “relentlessly” demeaned Johnson with racial slurs and innuendos, even once in front of Johnson’s wife and children.

“The total of Mr. Handley’s racism, bigotry and discrimination almost defies belief,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleges that at the end of 2016, Handley was promoted to patrol sergeant and “immediately orchestrated as sham disciplinary process” to force Johnson out of the department due to his race.

Handley fabricated numerous disciplinary actions against Johnson in rapid succession, the lawsuit said. He then persuaded the department to give Johnson an ultimatum: Johnson could demote himself to a position still under Handley or leave the department.

On Aug. 2, 2017, Johnson resigned.

“It was abundantly clear that continuing to work for Mr. Handley would have meant enduring more racism, more bigotry, and more discrimination, none of which was tolerable,” the lawsuit said.

In 2021, the department conducted an internal investigation, which substantiated Johnson’s claims of racism, the lawsuit said. It also alleged that the investigation showed Handley had received unfair preferential treatment throughout his employment at the department, which emboldened his misconduct.

According to court documents, Handley routinely referred to Johnson, the only Black officer in the department, as slurs such as “jigaboo” and the n-word. He once also questioned if Johnson had sex with a Black woman and when he said nothing, Handley said “That would be nasty. That would be like having sex with a dog.”

Johnson is asking for damages due to his lost income and benefits from having to resign, lost employment opportunities, psychological and emotional anguish, distress, pain and suffering and attorneys’ fees.

An earlier lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleged Handley and another officer pressured sexual assault victims to recant their allegations. Handley and the other officer were removed as defendants in the lawsuit when a judge ruled they could not be held personally liable in the case. However, the judge also said the officers handled the case poorly.

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Former Lander City Employee Sues For Discrimination, Wrongful Termination

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A former Lander city employee is suing the city and its public works director, alleging he was discriminated against due to his military status and was improperly fired.

Michael Clancy is suing the city and public works director Lance Hopkin in U.S. District Court, claiming they violated his federal and state due process rights and discriminated against him due to his status as a member of the armed services.

“Defendants discriminated against Mr. Clancy by imposing adverse employment actions including but not limited to, forced resignation, because of his status as a service member in the (Army National Guard) in violation of (federal law),” the lawsuit said.

According to court documents, Clancy worked for the city of Lander for more than 15 years as a water treatment plant operator. Clancy is also a member of the Army National Guard who was deployed to Iraq between 2009 and 2010.

Upon return from his deployment, the city of Lander paid the retirement that he would have earned had he not been deployed, including contributions he would have made.

In September 2018, Clancy was again deployed, this time to Afghanistan. Upon his return in August 2020, Hopkin, Clancy’s new supervisor, denied Clancy his prorated salary, as well as his benefits, from the period of his deployment.

Clancy thought his boss’ decision was unfounded, so he contacted a Veterans Affairs representative to look into the situation. The representative contacted Hopkin and tried to explain that Clancy was entitled to a portion of his salary and benefits, as well as military benefits, while he was deployed.

Hopkin was not receptive to the information, questioned who the representative was and asked what authority he/she had to tell him what to do regarding his employees, the lawsuit said.

After much resistance, Clancy did ultimately receive his prorated salary.

However, Hopkin required Clancy to pay almost $5,000 in employee contributions to retirement he accrued while deployed, which was not the same arrangement made the first time he was deployed.

Additionally, when Clancy returned to work, Hopkin assigned him to work at the cemetery, even though he is experienced and licensed as a water treatment plant operator and there was a shortage of operators at the water treatment plant. At the cemetery, Clancy’s duties were mostly related to lawn care.

The reassignment resulted in a loss of on-call pay and overtime Clancy would have received if he was working as a water treatment plant operator.

Clancy was eventually transferred back to the plant in November of 2020.

Since his return from Afghanistan, Hopkin treated Clancy worse than other employees who were not in the Guard, even refusing to speak to Clancy for a time, the lawsuit said

Hopkin also denied Clancy two promotion opportunities by not advertising the positions to him and misrepresenting certain facts about other employment availability, the lawsuit alleged.

For example, in October 2018, the water superintendent position became available, and Hopkin emailed all employees in the department about the job other than Clancy, and the person who was hired did not have as much administrative experience or seniority as Clancy.

In February 2021, an HR position was advertised, and although Clancy expressed interest, Hopkin steered him toward applying for an assistant water superintendent position. Clancy did not apply for the HR position, and when he later asked Hopkin about the assistant superintendent job, he discovered it did not actually exist.

Hopkin also told Clancy in April 2021 that he had some concerns about Clancy’s deployments, but would not elaborate on this.

The week of May 3, 2021, the water treatment plant had issues making potable water, which Clancy and his colleagues had been working on. On May 7, Clancy’s scheduled day off, he drove to Spearfish, South Dakota, which he had informed his co-workers about.

About an hour away from Spearfish, Hopkin called Clancy and told him to come into work, but Clancy said he was six hours away from Lander, but would be back late that night and could work that weekend. Hopkin told Clancy he needed to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and placed Clancy on administrative leave.

Following “an extremely biased investigation,” Hopkin gave Clancy the choice to be fired or resign for negligence, insubordination and dishonesty.

“These reasons are baseless and not supported by the evidence,” the lawsuit said. “Mr. Clancy was forced to resign under protest so that he could retain his retirement.”

While Clancy’s job description does say there might be on-call work requirements and 24-hour standby, Clancy was never told he was on a standby or on-call duty when he left for South Dakota. In the past, whenever Clancy was required to be on call, he was told in advance.

Prior to the incident with Hopkin, all of Clancy’s employee evaluations had been satisfactory and he was never put on notice for job performance.

Clancy claims he and his family have been damaged by the job loss and although he has gotten a job driving trucks in Fremont County, the pay and benefits are “substantially less” than at the city.

However, Clancy does not want his job back, due to the way he has been treated.

In the lawsuit, Clancy is asking to be paid back for lost wages and benefits, on call pay, emotional stress and attorney’s fees.

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Multiple Wyoming School Districts, Harrist Removed From Mask Mandate Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of parties, including the state’s public health officer, have been removed from a lawsuit filed over face mask requirements earlier this year at place at some of the state’s schools.

Albany County School District 1, Sheridan County School District 2, Laramie County School District 1, Uinta County School District 6, Sweetwater County School District 2, Goshen County School District 1, the Sheridan Police Department, Wyoming state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist and Wyoming Department of Health interim director Stefan Johansson have all been removed from the lawsuit by U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal.

ACSD1 was removed from the lawsuit on Jan. 10, while the other defendants were removed in late December.

In an opinion filed in the December ruling, Freudenthal called the complaint filed on behalf of former Laramie High School student Grace Smith and others a “confused jumble of factual assertions…extensive citations to articles and other materials of nonparties…and legal arguments.”

“Plaintiffs repeat many legal arguments verbatim several times,” the opinion read. “In short, the amended complaint is so overly long, confused, repetitive, argumentative and generic in its allegations.”

The court applied this same reasoning to the order taking ACSD1 off of the lawsuit.

The decision leaves Gov. Mark Gordon and county health officers in five counties as defendants on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in November on behalf of Smith and 10 other plaintiffs.

Smith is a former Laramie High School student who was arrested on a charge of trespass for refusing to wear a face mask inside the high school. The lawsuit filed against the state and several school districts asked the court to find the mask mandates in place in several school districts unconstitutional.

The initial lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 2 alleges that rules adopted by some districts requiring students to wear masks while in class, observe social distancing and to quarantine when exposed to coronavirus have been improperly adopted.

The lawsuit asks the court to find there was never an imminent threat to Wyoming’s residents from coronavirus, that Gordon’s initial emergency declaration was unconstitutional, that school districts have no authority to impose such mandates and that all such orders should be lifted immediately.

Last month, as the school districts were seeking dismissal from the lawsuit, one organization actually filed a motion to join as defendants.

Families for Healthy Communities, a Wyoming nonprofit membership organization, filed a motion to intervene and join the lawsuit on Dec. 9. In its motion, Families for Healthy Communities said it wanted a say in the lawsuit because it has an interest in protecting the health of its student members and their families from COVID through masking, which would be impaired if the lawsuit succeeds in eliminating mask requirements in schools.

“Families’ members support face mask requirements in school…more stringent than (Wyoming Health Department) guidelines, to protect their health and that of their fellow students, teachers, staff and of their families and community,” the motion read.

Families’ lawyers argued that the state and school districts involved in the lawsuit could not adequately represent the nonprofit’s interests, because “governments are prone to making shifts in policy.”

“It is no secret that (the state and school districts) are under significant pressure to eliminate their COVID-19 response policies,” the motion said.

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Wyoming Assistant U.S. Attorney Challenges Vaccine Mandate

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

An assistant U.S. Attorney in Wyoming is suing President Joe Biden and a group of other federal officials over the requirement for federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Margaret Vierbuchen, a 25-year employee of the federal government, is asking the U.S. District Court in Wyoming to block federal agencies from demanding that she and other federal employees get the COVID vaccine or face the loss of their jobs.

“No law passed by Congress .. authorizes such a sweeping intrusion into the lives and medical decisions of America’s federal civil servants,” the lawsuit said. “Nor does the Constitution give the president such monarchial power.”

Biden announced in September that he would require federal employees, health care workers and workers at companies employing more than 100 people to get the coronavirus vaccine. The mandates for health care workers and large employers are being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the lawsuit, filed Jan. 4, Vierbuchen, who has spent the last six years as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Wyoming and New Mexico, caught the coronavirus and recovered from it, giving her antibodies against the illness.

The lawsuit said Vierbuchen is refusing to get the vaccination, which has resulted in threats of the loss of her job.

“For her failure to obey the president’s illegal command, the defendants have threatened that she will lose her job and, contrary to federal law, they will strip away the retirement benefits she has earned through her service,” it said.

The lawsuit said Vierbuchen has also been forced to submit to intrusive COVID-19 tests and has had access to her workplace restricted because she refuses the vaccination.

The lawsuit said Biden’s order “exceeds the lawful authority of his office” and violates Vierbuchen’s due process rights, right to privacy and her right to be free of unwanted and unnecessary medication.

The lawsuit, which also names as defendants the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the directors of the General Services Administration and Office of Management and Budget, argued Biden had no authority to impose a vaccine mandate.

“Never has the executive branch claimed authority to compel all federal civilian employees to submit to the forcible injection of medication against their will,” it said. 

Congress has never given the president the authority to issue such a mandate for civil servants, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also argued that federal employees do not give up their constitutional freedoms because they are employed by the federal government.

“Federal employees do not lose their personal autonomy over medical decisions by agreeing to serve the people of the United States,” it said. “Nor do executive branch officials have dictatorial authority over the lives and livelihoods of those they supervise.”

The lawsuit asks the court to find that Biden’s mandate is unenforceable and that its implementation has violated Vierbuchen’s constitutional rights.

The lawsuit also asks the court to block officials from requiring Vierbuchen “and others similarly situated” to comply with the mandate.

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Employees Sue Cheyenne, Douglas Hospitals Over Vaccine Policy

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Current and former Employees of hospitals in Cheyenne and Douglas are suing their employers over their COIVD vaccination policies.

In a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Dec. 22 by Buffalo attorney Nick Beduhn, two Cheyenne Regional Medical Center employees and six Memorial Hospital of Converse County employees asked a federal judge for an injunction against their employers to prevent the hospitals from enforcing their COVID vaccination policies. The lawsuit argues the policies are contrary to federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

“Plaintiffs contend that the policies issued and allowed by the (hospitals) are directly contrary to (federal law) … the Constitution of the State of Wyoming, and the … Federal Constitution; all of which protect the natural fundamental rights,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit stated that one of the plaintiffs, former CRMC registered nurse Christie Higgins, was employed by the Cheyenne hospital for more than 10 years before she was fired in mid-December. She received the Pfizer vaccine in April and almost immediately began suffering from adverse side effects, ultimately experiencing tremors and weakness.

In May, a neurologist diagnosed Higgins with a “Covid-19 vaccine related neurological disorder,” the lawsuit said.

In the lawsuit, Higgins said she was never told about “foreseeable risks and discomfort” of getting the vaccine.

The lawsuit added that “many other” CRMC employees were aware of Higgins’ situation and were hesitant to get the vaccine due to her side effects. They all face possible termination due to their refusal to get the vaccine.

“Worse yet are the nurses that are injecting the vaccines. Many have been told by their employer that they ‘cannot say anything negative’ about the vaccines with the treat (sic) of termination if they do,” the lawsuit said. “These nurses are required by federal law and regulation to fully inform the patient; and yet face being fired if they comply . . . They are literally in a situation that they must risk their license; or be fired.”

Most of the other plaintiffs were refusing the vaccine on “legal, ethical, scientific and strong religious/scientific grounds.”

The lawsuit also alleged that the available vaccines have not been vetted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but were approved for use under the adoption of emergency rules. It said as a result, no one can be forced to get the vaccine.

“In other words, there is currently NO FDA approved Covid-19 injection available anywhere in the United States. Every Covid shot in America remains under the (emergency use authorization) law and thus people have the ‘option to accept or refuse’ them,” the lawsuit said.

In late November, CRMC implemented its vaccination policy, requiring employees to either get vaccinated against COVID or submit to weekly COVID tests.

The MHCC has postponed implementing its vaccination policy until the end of January.

As part of his proposed national vaccine mandate, President Joe Biden called for the full immunization of all health care workers. Under rules issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health care facilities whose employees were not fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 could lose Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Wyoming and nine other states sued the CMS, claiming the agency lacked the authority to implement the requirement and a federal judge in Missouri has issued a preliminary injunction to block the requirement. Judge Matthew Schelp ruled that in trial, the states would probably be successful in their claims.

The injunction is in place in the 10 participating states at least until hearings into the lawsuit itself can begin. As a result, the length of time it will be in place is not known.

In addition to the health care workers, Beduhn is representing a number of plaintiffs in another federal lawsuit against the state of Wyoming, six school districts, five county health officers and more, asking that all mask requirements in place in some schools across the state be ruled unconstitutional and declared void.

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Organization Asks To Join Mask Mandate Lawsuit As Albany County Schools Look For Dismissal

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming nonprofit organization has asked a U.S. District Court to let it join a lawsuit over mask requirements in place in some school districts across the state.

The motion to intervene filed by Families for Healthy Communities was filed just days before another school district, Albany County School District No. 1, joined several others in asking to be dismissed from the lawsuit.

At issue is a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of 11 plaintiffs, including Grace Smith, the Laramie High School student who was arrested on a charge of trespass recently for refusing to wear a face mask inside the high school. The lawsuit filed against the state and several school districts asks the court to find the mask mandates in place in several school districts unconstitutional.

Families for Healthy Communities, a Wyoming nonprofit membership organization, filed a motion to intervene and join the lawsuit on Dec. 9. In its motion, Families for Health Communities said it wanted a say in the lawsuit becuse it has an interest in protecting the health of its student members and their families from COVID through masking, which would be impaired if the lawsuit succeeds in eliminating mask requirements in schools.

“Families’ members support face mask requirements in school…more stringent than (Wyoming Health Department) guidelines, to protect their health and that of their fellow students, teachers, staff and of their families and community,” the motion read.

Families’ lawyers argued that the state and school districts involved in the lawsuit could not adequately represent the nonprofit’s interests, because “governments are prone to making shifts in policy.”

“It is no secret that (the state and school districts) are under significant pressure to eliminate their COVID-19 response policies,” the motion said.

Meanwhile, the Albany County district filed its motion asking to be dismissed from the lawsuit on Thursday.

“(The people filing the lawsuit) fail to allege any invasion of legally-protected interest that constitutes an injury-in-fact,” the motion said. “The vast majority of … allegations do not concern any actions done by ACSD respondents.”

The initial lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 2 alleges that rules adopted by some districts requiring students to wear masks while in class, observe social distancing and to quarantine when exposed to coronavirus have been improperly adopted.

In addition to Smith and her father, the lawsuit names as plaintiffs the parents of other students from schools across the state.

The 128-page lawsuit alleges Gov. Mark Gordon, the Wyoming Department of Health, state Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, six school districts and county health officers in five counties imposed various coronavirus-related restrictions and requirements even though they lacked the authority to do so. The school districts are in Sheridan, Albany, Laramie, Goshen, Sweetwater and Uinta counties.

The lawsuit asks the court to find there was never an imminent threat to Wyoming’s residents from coronavirus, that Gordon’s initial emergency declaration was unconstitutional, that school districts have no authority to impose such mandates and that all such orders should be lifted immediately.

Within the last month, Sheridan County School District No. 2, Laramie County School District No. 1 and the Wyoming Department of Health have all filed motions to be dismissed from the lawsuit.

The court has not yet made a decision on the motions.

Smith was arrested at Laramie High School in October for trespassing. She had been suspended due to her refusal to wear a mask, as the Albany County School District 1 has a mask mandate in place, and would not leave school grounds after being repeatedly told to do so.

She has since withdrawn from the high school to attend her junior year online, but has not ruled out returning to Laramie High for her senior year.

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Libel Lawsuit Filed Against Buffalo Newspaper By Conservative PAC Dismissed

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By The Buffalo Bulletin

The Buffalo Bulletin was victorious in the libel lawsuit brought by the Patriot Conservatives of Johnson County Political Action Committee. 

“We are happy this whole ugly saga is over,” Bulletin publisher Robb Hicks said. “This was never about libel. It was about trying to punish the newspaper because the Patriot Conservatives didn’t like what was said about them. They tried to weaponize the court system to bully us into submission. Thankfully, the judge clearly saw through their ruse. We are grateful to our attorney, Chris Wages, and are pleased that justice prevailed.”

On Dec. 8, Fourth Judicial District Judge William Edelman granted the Buffalo Bulletin’s motion for judgment on the pleadings because the plaintiff’s complaint failed to show slander, defamation or libel, and the plaintiff is not authorized to file a civil lawsuit alleging a violation of election law. 

The conservative PAC filed the suit in the Fourth Judicial District Court on Aug. 16.

The suit alleged that the defendants, Weiser Signal American Inc., the Buffalo Bulletin Inc., Pronghorn Publishing Inc., Frontier Newspapers Inc., and Eclipse Media, Inc. published “false defamatory articles and ads.” The plaintiffs sought $36 million as damages — “the full tax dollar amount” for a 1% special use tax ballot measure before voters that failed on Aug. 17. The PAC also alleged the Buffalo Bulletin violated Wyoming election statutes.

In a motion hearing on Nov. 10, Chris Wages, attorney for the Buffalo Bulletin, asked Edelman for a judgment on the pleadings.

In his order, Edelman ruled the PAC failed to “allege or identify any oral communication made by Eclipse Media, Inc., which is required for a claim of slander.”

Edelman ruled that even if the allegations in the complaint are true, the plaintiff has no cause for action for defamation because the PAC is considered a public figure that inserted itself into a public controversy and they failed to make any credible claim for economic damages.

“As for the damage to Plaintiff’s reputation, there are no facts pled to show how or to what extent the publication affected Plaintiff — for example, there is no indication that Plaintiff lost members or monetary support as a result of the publication. Furthermore, to the extent Plaintiff attempts to tie the $36 million dollar tax levy to alleged injury, the issue is moot because the ballot measure failed on August 17, 2021.”

The plaintiff alleged Eclipse Media, Inc. violated Wyoming election statutes by printing an advertisement for a political action committee without disclosing who approved and paid for the ad.

However, Edelman wrote that Wyoming election law does not authorize private civil action for a violation of the Election Code. Therefore, the PAC is not authorized to bring this complaint. 

Edelman dismissed the complaint against defendants Weiser Signal American Inc., the Buffalo Bulletin Inc., Pronghorn Publishing Inc., and Frontier Newspapers Inc. because either the entities no longer exist or there is no nexus — or connection — between any actions taken by the defendants and any injury alleged by the plaintiff. 

Because there is no connection between the defendants and Eclipse Media Inc., publisher of the Buffalo Bulletin newspaper, there is no relief that the court could grant. 

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School Districts, State Asking For Dismissal Of Mask Mandate Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

At least two school districts and the Wyoming Department of Health have asked a U.S. District Court to dismiss a lawsuit that mask requirements in place in some schools across the state be ruled unconstitutional and declared void.

Sheridan County School District No. 2, Laramie County School District No. 1 and the Wyoming Department of Health have all filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit filed in early November on behalf of Laramie student Grace Smith and 10 others.

The Sheridan school district filed its motion on Nov. 19, while Cheyenne schools and the WDH filed motions on Tuesday.

In its brief in support of its request for dismissal, the Sheridan district said the 128-page lawsuit was not prepared according to the rules governing federal court action.

“Instead, it is the type of verbose diatribe that federal courts regularly condemn,” the brief said. “The allegations are not stated in simple, concise, and direct terms…but rather are lengthy and argumentative, and include many references to extrinsic materials that Petitioners believe support their theories concerning Covid-19.”

The initial lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 2 alleges that rules adopted by some districts requiring students to wear masks while in class, observe social distancing and to quarantine when exposed to coronavirus have been improperly adopted.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 plaintiffs, including Smith, the Laramie High School student who was arrested on a charge of trespass recently for refusing to wear a face mask inside the high school.

In addition to Smith and her father, the lawsuit names as plaintiffs the parents of other students from schools across the state.

The 128-page lawsuit alleges Gov. Mark Gordon, the Wyoming Department of Health, state Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, six school districts and county health officers in five counties imposed various coronavirus-related restrictions and requirements even though they lacked the authority to do so. The school districts are in Sheridan, Albany, Laramie, Goshen, Sweetwater and Uinta counties.

“Each and every one of these various (executive orders), health orders and policies were, and continue to be issued arbitrarily without lawful authority which resulted in confusing and chaotic outcomes such as the closing of businesses, limited government service, limited business services, the closing of schools and day care facilities, and the mandatory wearing of face coverings that serve no medical purpose as to the declared emergency as a few examples,” the lawsuit said. “These various arbitrary decisions have resulted in many and repeated violations of the petitioners’ rights and liberties.”

The lawsuit asks the court to find there was never an imminent threat to Wyoming’s residents, that Gordon’s initial emergency declaration was unconstitutional, that school districts have no authority to impose such mandates and that all such orders should be lifted immediately.

However, the Cheyenne school district said in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit that the complaint suffered from “a serious jurisdictional infirmity,” a point also raised by the Wyoming Department of Health.

“Although the amended complaint references federal law, it does not identify any specific provision of the United State’s Constitution or any federal statute that would provide the basis for the Court to have jurisdiction,” the WDH motion read. “Rather, petitioners only complain about actions taken by the respondents under State law.”

The court has not yet granted or denied the dismissal from any of these entities, though.

Smith was arrested at Laramie High School in October for trespassing. She had been suspended due to her refusal to wear a mask, as the Albany County School District 1 has a mask mandate in place, and would not leave school grounds after being repeatedly told to do so.

She has since withdrawn from the high school to attend her junior year online, but has not ruled out returning to Laramie High for her senior year.

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Judge Allows Wife of Man Detained As Triple Murder Suspect To Sue Park County Sheriff

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A legal standard that protects government officials from being sued in most cases can be used in the case of law enforcement officers accused of wrongfully detaining a Missouri family in 2017, a federal judge has ruled.

However, the judge found that the officers can only be protected from a lawsuit filed by the husband who was detailed and that his wife can proceed with her lawsuit against them.

Brett and Genalyn Hemry are suing Park County Sheriff’s Department officers Robert Cooke and Brett Tillery, along with National Park Service rangers, alleging violations of their rights against improper search and seizure, use of excessive force and false imprisonment in the traffic stop near Yellowstone National Park that resulted from a search for a man suspected in a triple murder.

The law enforcement officers claimed they were protected from lawsuits by “qualified immunity.” According to Cornell University, qualified immunity protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff’s rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right.

According to court documents, National Park Service rangers stopped the Hemrys after they left the park service’s east gate. Rangers had identified Brett Hemry as a possible suspect in a triple murder because, like the suspect, he had white hair and drove a white car.

About one-half hour after the stop, Park County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and forced Brett Hemry and his wife at gunpoint to get into separate law enforcement vehicles. While the Hemrys were being detained, another officer continued to point a weapon at the family’s car, where the family’s child, identified only as F.M.H., remained.

The lawsuit said after about an hour of detention in the deputy’s vehicle, Brett Hemry was allowed to display his identification and was told why he was stopped. At that point, the three were told they were free to go, the lawsuit said.

Because the officers had a reason for detaining Hemry, since he matched the suspect’s physical description, U.S. District Judge Judge Alan Johnson ruled that the officers are protected from a lawsuit over allegations of Hemry’s wrongful arrest under terms of qualified immunity.

However, Johnson ruled the officers did not have cause to detain Genalyn Hemry because the officers should have known she was not the suspect.

“This Court concludes that probable cause supported Mr. Hemry’s arrest, but not Mrs. Hemry’s,” Johnson wrote in his decision.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages to compensate the Hemrys for “their loss of freedom and for their emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life” and punitive damages for the “intentional, reckless, and outrageous actions” of the law enforcement officers.

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Wyoming Files Lawsuit Against Biden, Calls Mandate “Unconstitutional”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

On Friday, Wyoming and 10 other states filed a lawsuit to halt the emergency temporary standard for vaccines issued by President Joe Biden’s administration, Gov. Mark Gordon’s office announced.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is mandating vaccines on employees of private Wyoming businesses with over 100 employees. A petition for judicial review was filed in the U. S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, and a motion for stay is expected to be filed early next week.

Additionally, Wyoming and several other states filed a motion for preliminary injunction in the previously filed suit against the Biden administration regarding vaccine mandates for federal contractors. The coalition of states is asking the court to stop the Biden administration from taking any action to implement or enforce the federal contractor vaccine mandate. 

“These legal actions are essential to stopping the unconstitutional mandates from the Biden Administration. This is a result of the hard work by our Attorney General,” Gordon said. “I thank General [Bridget] Hill and her team for their efforts to protect the rights of Wyoming citizens and her industries. We have been preparing for this battle and, as promised, we are now joined in the fight to protect our civil liberties. Rest assured I am committed to using every tool possible to oppose these unlawful federal policies.”

Friday’s lawsuit challenges the emergency temporary standard adopted by OSHA which requires private employers with 100 or more employees to mandate their employees get vaccinated or implement weekly testing and mask requirements.

Non-compliant businesses could potentially face steep fines.

According to Robin Sessions Cooley, director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, a total of 106,462 individuals in Wyoming work for private and public employers with at least 100 employees, which means 41.7% of the total Wyoming workforce and 18.5% of the total population of Wyoming would be covered by the mandate.   

“This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise,” the petition stated. “The federal government lacks constitutional authority under its enumerated powers to issue this mandate, and its attempt to do so unconstitutionally infringes on the States’ powers expressly reserved by the 10th Amendment. OSHA also lacks statutory authority to issue this mandate, which it shoe-horned into statutes that govern workplace safety, and which were never intended to federalize public-health policy.”

The lawsuit is asking the court for an immediate stay pending judicial review.

The states in this suit are Missouri, Nebraska, Montana, Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.  

“For over a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that policies on compulsory vaccination lie within the police powers of the States, and that ‘they are matters that do not ordinarily concern the national government.’ Until quite recently, the Biden Administration agreed,” the petition said. “The White House stated…that mandating vaccines is ‘not the role of the federal government.’ But on September 9, 2021, that position underwent a dramatic reversal.”

The details of the rules needed to put the mandate in place were released Thursday. 

Gordon’s announcement came two days after Wyoming’s Legislature completed its special session aimed at charting the state’s response to the mandates.

Of the 20 bills proposed for review during the session, only one won final approval. It would prohibit state and local public entities from enforcing a federal mandate, but it would not take effect until a federal court, in response to legal action, blocks the mandate.

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Deputies Seek Dismissal Of Lawsuit Filed From Couple Who Was Held At Gunpoint In Yellowstone

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Two Park County Sheriff’s deputies are asking that a lawsuit filed against them over the detention of a Missouri family in 2017 be dismissed.

Robert Cooke and Brett Tillery, in a motion filed in U.S. District Court, argued in part they cannot be sued for the detention of the Hemry family because they were doing their jobs as law enforcement officers at the time and as such are immune from being sued.

“Defendants were engaged in assisting with a lawful investigative detention and seizure necessary to resolve reports of a potentially violent fugitive in the vehicle, while also ensuring the safety of the officers and during the stop,” said the motion to dismiss the lawsuit. “The investigatory detention did not turn into arrest, and the use of force was not excessive under the circumstances.”

The lawsuit filed in July stems from allegations that Brett and Genalyn Hemry and their daughter, all of Independence, Missouri, were held at gunpoint for almost one hour after Brett Hemry was mistakenly identified as a suspect in a triple murder in Idaho.

The Hemrys were stopped by National Park Service rangers after leaving the east gate of Yellowstone National Park. Brett and Genalyn Hemry were later detained in the back of Park County Sheriff’s deputies cars. The three were allowed to leave when Brett Hemry was allowed to display his identification, about an hour after the stop occurred.

The Hemrys sued Cooke and Tillery, along with the Park Service rangers involved.

In their request that the portion of the lawsuit against them be dismissed, Cooke and Tillery said the Hemrys’ lawsuit did not specify what they did to violate the Hemrys’ rights.

“There are no facts alleged that would indicate, under the deference afforded to law enforcement in such circumstances, that the … defendants had knowingly violated any clearly established rights,” the motion said.

The motion said the lawsuit claims “completely miss the required allegations of who did what to whom and when.

”The lawsuit alleged officers pointed guns at Brett and Genalyn Hemry and forced them to walk to the Park County Sheriff’s deputy’s cars, but the motion to dismiss said Cooke and Tillery were not specifically identified as the officers who took that action.

“A general assertion that ‘a defendant’ or ‘one or more defendants’ did this or that is insufficient to satisfy the plausibility standard of pleasing in federal court,” the motion said.

In addition, police officers enjoy some immunity from lawsuits when they are doing their jobs, the motion said.

The detention of the Hemrys was justified given the danger posed by the murder suspect who was still at large, the motion said, and it was ended as soon as officers were able to determine Hemry was not the wanted suspect.

“Given the violent nature of the crimes (the murder suspect) was suspected of committing, as well as the specific reporting that tied him to a vehicle matching the description of the one driven by the Hemrys, it was reasonable for the officers to make the stop, and take the time necessary to thoroughly and cautiously determine the identity of the occupants in a manner that ensured the safety of the officers and the public,” the motion said. “While having guns drawn on them and being handcuffed was understandably disturbing to (the Hemrys), these actions were reasonably necessary under the circumstances to resolve the suspected connection with Bullinger and protect public safety.”

The motion also denied that excessive force was used during the detention, along with claims that the Hemrys were subjected to false imprisonment.

“While (the Hemrys) were briefly detained in their Toyota, and later Mr. and Mrs. Hemry were placed in the law enforcement vehicles to verify whether (the murder suspect) was in the (Hemrys’) car, to identify Mr. Hemry, and the absence of any connection with (the murder suspect), they were never taken to jail or otherwise imprisoned. In fact, they were free to go soon after Mr. Hemry’s identity was confirmed.”

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Former Guernsey Police Chief Wins Lawsuit, $300K Settlement Reached

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A federal jury has awarded Guernsey’s former police chief more than $300,000 in her lawsuit alleging that her reports of misconduct within the town’s government resulted in her firing.

However, a federal judge in July ordered the town and former Police Chief Terri Van Dam to mediate a settlement of the lawsuit and all related issues, resulting in a settlement that was reached in mid-August.

Van Dam worked as a police officer for Guernsey for five years, the last year as its chief of police. She sued the town in April 2020 after being fired the previous January.

In her complaint, Van Dam said she had started an investigation on her own time in 2018 into allegations of misconduct involving town officials and employees. She alleged that she was fired in January of 2020 after sharing the results of her investigation with the state Division of Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Van Dam kept the fact she had sent information to the DCI and FBI confidential, but shared it with the town’s attorney when she determined her town email account had been hacked and some email had been read. 

According to the complaint, the town attorney told the town council about the investigation and reports to the DCI and FBI on Jan. 7, 2020.On Jan. 15, 2020, Van Dam was fired by Guernsey Mayor Nick Paustian.

Van Dam alleged she was fired for exercising her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech by collecting evidence of and reporting illegal activity to state and federal law enforcement agencies.

“The town negatively impacted its own interest in efficient public service by attempting to cover up alleged illicit activity by terminating employees that would not get on the same plane as the bad actors,” the complaint said. “The town’s interest in covering up allegations of misconduct does not outweigh (Van Dam’s) interest in reporting what she perceived to be illegal conduct to outside agencies.”

A jury in U.S. District Court ruled that Van Dam’s reports to other law enforcement agencies were “a motivating factor in (the town’s) decision to terminate (Van Dam).”The jury also found that a Facebook post that was made by another person who Van Dam had spoken with was also a “motivating factor” in Van Dam’s firing.

The jury awarded Van Dam $325,175, but the town asked for a change in the damage award or a new trial, saying that she did not disclose the fact she had been hired as a police officer by another town in January of 2021, so her damages should be lower.

The town also argued that the calculations used to determine damages for Van Dam set the amount too high and that the damages should be limited to one year’s salary, $56,400.

However, Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin ordered the parties to take part in mediation to settle the disputes.

“The court believes the parties should fully explore and consider settlement of these issues at the earliest opportunity,” Rankin wrote. “Early consideration can prevent unnecessary litigation of these issues.”

Although details are not included in the publicly available documents from the U.S. District Court, a notation was made that a settlement was reached on Aug. 17.

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Family Of Lander Woman Blinded In Hospital Now Suing For Negligence

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The family of a 72-year-old Lander woman whose eye was gouged out by a fellow Lander hospital patient Thanksgiving morning is now suing said hospital for failing to protect the woman from her attacker.

Elaine Tillman died about two weeks following being attacked and blinded by Patrick Rose, 53, of Dubois, while they were both being treated at SageWest Hospital in Lander. Tillman was life-flighted to Salt Lake City shortly after the attack.

Tillman’s daughters are suing Riverton Memorial Hospital, LLC, the company that owns SageWest. The lawsuit doesn’t specifically list the damages the daughters are seeking, but it is in excess of $75,000.

The lawsuit accuses the hospital company of negligence for failing to protect Tillman from harm.

According to the lawsuit, Rose was a psychiatric patient with a history of violence when he was held in the hospital on Thanksgiving morning.

The lawsuit said Rose was insufficiently restrained and supervised at the time, allowing him to leave his room and assault Tillman. The woman’s autopsy listed her cause of death as homicide.

The lawsuit alleged and it had been known for more than a year that SageWest had been “grossly” insufficient when supervising and monitoring of its psychiatric patients. It also accused Riverton Memorial Hospital of not spending the money to assure patients’ safety despite the complaints.

Officials have determined that Rose is not mentally fit to proceed with his case. He was moved to the Wyoming State Hospital in June for further evaluation.

According to media reports, a nurse was outside of Rose’s room when “he ran out of the room, rushed into the next room, and jumped on the elderly female patient before (the nurse) could react.”

Reasons for the attack are unknown but the Associated Press reported that Rose may have stopped taking medication

“People who take psychotropic medications and suffer from mental illness have a tendency to believe they don’t need to take the medication and then quit taking them, and then things go wrong from them,” Lander Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt said.

Rose told the judge he had a traumatic brain injury.

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Former Casper Businessman Denies Sex Assault Allegations

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A former Casper businessman is denying allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in 2017 and is asking that a lawsuit filed against him by the woman be dismissed.

Tony Cercy, in a response to the lawsuit filed against him in June, denied all of the allegations it raised and said the woman failed to state a reason in her civil lawsuit why Cercy should be required to pay damages.

“Mr. Cercy asserts an award of punitive damages would be in violation of his rights under the United States Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution, including, without limitation, his rights to due process and equal protection,” said the response, filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.

The lawsuit stems from an allegation that Cercy, now a Texas resident, sexually assaulted the woman at his house at Alcova Reservoir after she fell asleep on his couch.

A jury in 2018 acquitted Cercy on two charges stemming from the incident. In a second trial, Cercy was convicted on a charge of third-degree sexual assault.

The conviction was overturned by Wyoming’s Supreme Court on the grounds the jury in his second trial was given improper instructions. Prosecutors declined to seek a third trial.

The woman, now South Carolina resident, then filed her civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit said the woman was “very intoxicated” when she went to a party at Cercy’s house and fell asleep on his couch.

She alleged she awoke to find Cercy performing oral sex on her.

But Cercy, in his response, denied all the allegations of sexual assault, along with accusations he threatened to have the woman killed if she mentioned the incident to anyone.

“Mr. Cercy denies that he was a party to any event, act or omission giving rise to this action,” the response said.

In addition to dismissal of the lawsuit, Cercy’s response asks that he be compensated for any fees and costs associated with his defense.

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Wyoming to Receive $500K In Magazine Scam Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will receive a settlement of $500,000 in a lawsuit alleging two companies targeted customers nationwide by selling overpriced magazine subscriptions using deceptive mailers designed to look like renewal notices for customers’ legitimate existing subscriptions.

Wyoming joined Colorado in this lawsuit against Atlantic Publishers and Publishers Partnership Services and will also receive $500,000 in the settlement.

Both states’ attorney general offices, as well as the Better Business Bureau, received hundreds of complaints, mainly from people over 60, about the mailers.

One customer, a 94-year-old woman, reported to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office that she sent more than $60 to Atlantic Publishers when she received what she thought was a renewal notice for her “Time” magazine subscription, but when she received the real renewal notice the next month, she called the magazine and was told they had not received her payment. 

Colorado filed a lawsuit in November 2019, and Wyoming filed its lawsuit in January of this year. 

The lawsuits stated that from 2016 through 2019, Atlantic Publishers Group and Publishers Partnership Services sent millions of these deceptive mailers to consumers across the country.  

“Overcharging and misleading older consumers into thinking that the mailers were renewal notices  is unconscionable,” said Colorado AG Phil Weiser. “We are pleased that we were able to work with Wyoming to stop this practice that caused financial stress for many consumers and hurt the operations of legitimate  magazine publishers.” 

Because Atlantic Publishers operated out of Colorado, and Publishers Partnership Services operated out of Wyoming, people from across the U.S. filed complaints with the attorneys general offices in both states.

“This settlement highlights the value of interstate coordination,” said Wyoming AG Bridget Hill. “Working together as  equal partners, Colorado and Wyoming have halted and held accountable those whom we allege used our states as home base for misleading consumers nationwide.”  

Under the terms of the joint settlement, the alleged organizers of this scam, Dennis Simpson and John Ackermann, and their companies will pay $500,000 to each of the attorneys general offices to support consumer protection efforts in Colorado and Wyoming.  

They are also banned from operating magazine subscription businesses in both states and from sending the deceptive mailers to Colorado and Wyoming consumers. 

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