NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, Feb. 24, 2020

Bill would limit sex offender access to school property

CASPER (WNE) — Education officials across Wyoming would have more power to limit sex offenders’ access to school property under a bill moving through the House. 

The measure, House Bill 68, is sponsored by Afton Republican Rep. Evan Simpson. It would require that registered sex offenders who are parents receive written approval from a school administrator before they can attend an extracurricular event or pick up their children from school. 

“It’s kind of a sad situation that we have to go to this extreme to protect our children,” Simpson said earlier this month. “That’s the way we do laws, quite often — we don’t like them, but we have to defend our good citizens.” 

Simpson said he drafted the bill after an administrator from within the Natrona County School District raised concerns. 

There are broad limits on how close sex offenders can be to school grounds. They can’t be on school property if there are children present, they can’t live or loiter within 1,000 feet of a school and they can’t be in a school vehicle if there are minors present. 

There are some exceptions for parents who are also sex offenders. Currently, those parents don’t need permission to attend extracurricular events or to pick up or drop off students. 

Simpson said the measure was intended to tighten up those exceptions. 

“(A district) had some guys attending and creating difficulties in the school and when confronted, they say, ‘It’s within my perfect rights,’” he said. “’My kid is participating, therefore I’m able to be in the building.’”


Gillette College enrollment increases

GILLETTE (WNE) — Enrollments in the spring semester at Gillette College continue to increase compared to a year ago.

The two-year community college has a headcount of 1,750 students this spring, about 155 more than a year ago at this same time, said Janell Oberlander, college vice president.

The college also has a total full-time equivalent (FTE) of 978.6 hours this spring, also an increase from a year earlier at the same time.

In addition, Oberlander told the college’s Advisory Board, a total of 440 high school students are taking dual or concurrent classes through the college for a full-time equivalent of 186.9. That’s 119 students and 83.6 FTE more than a year ago in spring 2019.

“Those numbers are great,” said newly elected board chairman Bob Palmer. “Many years ago, we struggled to get the high school graduates from Campbell County. And now that we have two high schools, and the one at Wright and Westwood, what are we seeing?”

Oberlander said the college is seeing an increase across the board.

“Certainly from Campbell County (High School) we’re seeing that, but we’re also starting to see an increase from Thunder Basin (High School) and so those students are starting to filter in. But definitely for dual (classes taken on the college campus) and concurrent (those taken at the high schools), we’re starting to see more and more students from both high schools,” she said. “Westwood numbers are continuing to climb in dual enrollment and we’re also serving Wright, so we’re serving all four of our high schools.”


Man could get new hearing in standoff case

RIVERTON (WNE) — Sentenced in 2018 to 20-30 years in prison for three counts of attempted murder and 13 counts of aggravated assault and battery, Riverton resident Randy Pickering could get another hearing in Fremont County District Court to determine whether his trial two years ago was fair. 

The Wyoming Supreme Court sent Pickering’s appeal back to the court that sentenced him, compelling retired District Court Judge Norman Young to come out of retirement and sit on the bench once again to answer fairness questions about the final criminal trial he oversaw.

Pickering, now 31, was convicted roughly one year after a March 2017 standoff with police, in which he shot at several law enforcement agents who were trying to extract him from a home on Minter Lane north of Riverton to arrest him for outstanding warrants. 

Pickering filed an appeal in recent months claiming prosecutors at his March 2018 trial made race-based decisions when removing jurors. 

As Pickering’s appeal counsel, Wyoming Public Defender Diane Lozano and her employee Kirk Morgan, with attorneys from the University of Wyoming Defender Aid Clinic, wrote, “there was no conspicuous, race-neutral reason” for removing two jurors, surnamed Mora and Gutierrez, from the trial during jury selection. 

When Pickering’s defense counsel challenged the removal at the time, Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun countered that he and his deputy attorneys removed those two from the final panel not because of their races, but because they did not speak during the interviews. 

A hearing date has not been set yet.