NEWS BRIEFS for Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Saratoga councilman dies when boat capsizes

RAWLINS (WNE) — The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a boat containing three people that had capsized on Friday afternoon in the North Platte River somewhere between Treasure Island near Saratoga and Kelley Cattle Company, the sheriff’s office said in a press release. 

“Deputy Roger Hawks responded to the area and established a command post near the entrance to Kelley Cattle Company,” the release states. “Deputy Scott Allison and Deputy Darren Willis also responded to the incident. Both Saratoga and Encampment Search and Rescue units were called out and a boat was launched from Treasure Island to begin searching for the victims.” 

At approximately 3:42 p.m. that day, the three individuals that had capsized were spotted on a small island in the river. 

There were two survivors, a 66-year-old male and a 67-year-old female from Laramie. One boater, however, died in the accident – 69-year-old Saratoga resident and Town Councilman Steven Wilcoxson. 


Knudsen case bound over to district court

TORRINGTON (WNE) — Visiting First Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lee determined during a hearing May 21 that special prosecutor Kevin Taheri has substantial evidence against former Torrington Municipal Judge and local attorney Gregory Knudsen and bound the case over to the Eighth Judicial District Court, which hears felony cases. 

Knudsen was charged with a slew of sex crimes in March, and if he’s found guilty, he could face more than 50 years in prison if the maximum penalties are handed down. The next step in Knudsen’s case is his arraignment hearing, where he’ll enter a plea to the alleged offenses. The arraignment has not yet been scheduled. 

The 70-year-old is facing three counts of felony sexual assault, felony burglary, five misdemeanor stalking charges and a misdemeanor charge for unlawful touching. 

The allegations outlined in five affidavits of probable cause, all filed by Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Brad Wnuk, begin in 2012 and contain allegations by multiple women who claim Knudsen took advantage of his position as their attorney. 

In the court documents, the victims are listed as criminal informants. 

The earliest allegations were from 2012 and 2013. 

CI 28954, as she’s referred to in the court documents, had hired Knudsen as a precaution after an accident she believed could have resulted in criminal charges. 

According to her, it only took a few weeks before she began to receive lewd texts from Knudsen – a recurring theme throughout the affidavits. 


Wyoming GOP office vandalized

CHEYENNE (WNE) — The Wyoming Republican Party office on Capitol Avenue was vandalized early Tuesday morning with black spray paint, but no suspects have been identified so far.

The painted messages read “I can’t breathe,” “F--- Trump” and also blacked out the Republican Party logo at the front of their office. By around 10 a.m. Tuesday, the majority of the spray paint had been cleaned off the glass front.

This vandalization comes amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd after he was restrained by four Minneapolis police officers because he matched the description of a forgery suspect at a grocery store. Derek Chauvin, the officer who restrained Floyd by putting his knee on his neck, is now facing charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The Cheyenne Police Department is aware of the local vandalism incident and is investigating. The Wyoming Republican Party issued the following statement on the vandalism:

“Although it is disheartening to have had our office front defamed by protesters, it comes as no surprise. The organization of the Left is astounding, and their tactics are consistently undermining morality. We will clean up our windows and continue in the fight for justice for all,” the statement said. “The irony of the message becomes evident. If you look behind the glass at the display, a timeless Republican principle is boldly stated, 'Rule of Law.’”


Colleges to start semester early, end in-person classes by Thanksgiving

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Northern Wyoming Community College District staff, including those at Gillette College, Sheridan College and Sheridan College in Johnson County, plan to begin all fall classes one week earlier than originally planned as just one measure to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff while reopening campuses.

NWCCD President Dr. Walter Tribley said by moving the start of the fall 2020 semester up by one week, the college hopes to reduce the amount of time students will be on campus during peak cold and flu season, which seem to coincide with COVID-19.

In an interview with The Sheridan Press Tuesday, Tribley said the discussions regarding the fall semester began in concept in mid-March as district leadership recognized the need to begin planning. The process included conversations with district leaders, faculty members and students. He emphasized that maintaining the quality and character of the district’s educational offerings took primary focus as staff considered options.

The updated fall schedule shortens the previously scheduled fall break from two days to one day with in-person classes ending prior to Thanksgiving. Students will complete their semester with approximately two weeks of online instruction.

According to Tribley, these changes to the schedule limit students traveling back and forth to campus.

“This schedule allows us to limit student travel, thereby reducing risk of exposure ahead of any potential resurgence of the virus,” Tribley said. “Our reopening plan prioritizes safety and health while attempting to minimize the impact to students.”


Teen sentenced to jail for selling LSD to middle schoolers

JACKSON (WNE) — Steven Bailey is in jail after pleading guilty to possessing and delivering LSD that was later found in student lockers at Jackson Hole Middle School.

The 18-year-old started serving his six-month sentence Tuesday evening at Teton County Jail after a hearing earlier that day in Teton County District Court.

“I feel it’s fair based on my past actions, and it’s a way for me to make amends,” Bailey said in court when the judge asked him what he thought about spending time behind bars.

Bailey has been sober since his arrest in November, he said.

“I did a 97-day in-treatment rehab and got out of that and came back to Jackson and have been doing an outpatient rehab since then,” he said. “Along with that, when this all happened I unenrolled from my high school education due to the circumstances. But last month I got my GED and am planning on continuing college once I get out of jail.”

Bailey was charged with delivery and possession of LSD after the drug was found in lockers at the middle school last fall.

A 14-year-old boy said he had been buying LSD and marijuana from Bailey, according to documents. That student admitted to reselling the drugs to his middle school classmates.

Bailey was originally jailed on three felony counts. In the plea agreement he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count and one felony count.

His jail sentence is based on the misdemeanor count, and when he’s released Bailey will serve probation on the felony count.


Converse commissioners approve bonds for refinery

DOUGLAS (WNE) — Converse County Commissioners voted in a unanimous decision Tuesday to approve $10 million in industrial development revenue bonds in an agreement with Slate Refining, LLC’s for the development of an old refinery north of Douglas on WYO 59. 

The Midland, Texas company will use bond money to renovate the old Antelope Refinery on WYO 59 and restart production. 

Commissioners Robert Short, Rick Grant and Jim Willox voiced their approval of the partnership between the county and Slate, saying it will bring more jobs and a boost to the local economy, in a downturn due to the oil, gas and coal bust, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The revenue bonds are for economic and commercial development in the state of Wyoming. They will allow this county to develop a resource which will help out not only our county but other counties as well,” Grant said.

Slate Refining LLC purchased the refinery last year from Genesis Energy with the intent of getting it up and running as quickly as possible. 

The bonds, while approved by the county, do not actually use any county nor state money. The money for the bonds actually comes from private investors through the bonds, Willox explained.

“They are tax free bonds according to state statutes. The county isn’t loaning any money, it’s not government money being used,” Willox stated.