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State Briefs

 

September 5, 2019



Campbell Co. makes pitch for business court

GILLETTE (WNE) — The state is currently looking for locations for a business court, and Campbell County Commissioners hope it will select Gillette.

Campbell County Deputy County Attorney Carol Seeger told commissioners Thursday that she has written letters that will be sent to a committee tasked with picking three Wyoming cities to host a chancery court.

“The letter is just really brief, saying, ‘Look at us, we’re an excellent option,’” she said.

The state is currently looking for locations for a business court, and Campbell County Commissioners hope it will select Gillette.

Campbell County Deputy County Attorney Carol Seeger told commissioners Thursday that she has written letters that will be sent to a committee tasked with picking three Wyoming cities to host a chancery court.

“The letter is just really brief, saying, ‘Look at us, we’re an excellent option,’” she said.

This past legislative session, state lawmakers passed Senate File 104, which created a chancery court, or a court that will deal specifically with complex business contracts and business disputes.

Commission Chairman Rusty Bell said Gillette is a good candidate because there are a lot of contract disputes in Campbell County, thanks to mineral rights and split estate issues.

Commissioner Mark Christensen said he thinks the chancery court is good from an economic diversification standpoint.

He also said he hopes a business court will ease the workload of the local district judges.

Longtime firefighter arrested on child porn charges

RAWLINS (WNE) — Michael Eugene Pipher, a firefighter with the Carbon County Fire Department for the past 20 years, has been arrested for possessing child pornography. 

According to court records, a months-long investigation conducted by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations led to the execution of a search warrant on Pipher’s property in Hanna. 

There, investigators obtained three electronic devices, some of which contained “hundreds of files” depicting child pornography. 

During a subsequent interview with investigators that day, Pipher said he had not been viewing the material for very long; however, he later admitted to “struggling with this for months.” 

Pipher, 63, first came under suspicion following undercover operations related to the file sharing program BitTorrent P2P network in April, which later linked Pipher’s IP address to several child pornography downloads. 

After investigators explained the reason for the search warrant, Pipher admitted that he knew why he was under investigation. 

“Stuff has been showing up on my Android,” he said. “It’s child porn.”

Pipher also told investigators that he was using “torrents to get the files.” “(The) defendant admitted to ‘stripping’ or factory resetting the tablet computer on numerous occasions and hard reset the device because he was ‘scared it was on there,’” according to court records. “(The) defendant had continued to reinstall the file sharing program and continued downloading child pornography, stating, ‘It’s like an addiction sometimes.’” 

According to court records, Pipher said he has never touched minors inappropriately.

Pipher has been charged with six felony counts of sexual exploitation of children, which pose up to 64 years in prison and $60,000 in fines.

Gillette man sentenced to 25 years on sexual assault

GILLETTE (WNE) — A Gillette man will serve up to 25 years in prison for sexual assault.

In a June jury trial, Ronald Blanchard was found guilty of two sexual crimes, including first-degree sexual assault, and on Friday morning, District Judge Michael N. “Nick” Deegan sentenced Blanchard to 18 to 25 years in prison, to be served concurrently with a five- to 10-year sentence for a related crime.

Blanchard told Deegan “he’s very sorry for the strife” that he’s caused the victim, family and friends.

“If I hadn’t been drinking, this never would have happened,” he said through tears.

Deegan said that while he believes Blanchard, it doesn’t discount the fact that the crimes actually occurred.

“I can’t accept that as an excuse,” Deegan said.

Deegan’s sentence is close to the recommendation made by County Attorney Ron Wirthwein, who said Blanchard should serve 20 to 25 years in prison for the sexual assault, to be served concurrently with five to 10 years in prison for the other crime.

In November 2018, Blanchard was accused of having sex with a woman after she blacked out after drinking Crown Royal, vodka and whiskey.

She woke up briefly to find herself naked and Blanchard having sex with her, according to court documents.

Gillette police learned of the incident several weeks later after Blanchard told a friend at a bar about it, documents say. He refused to speak to police.

 
 

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