Dec 4, 2015

Attorney reprimanded for making confidential information about Cody police officer public

A Jackson attorney has been reprimanded for accidentally releasing confidential information about a former Cody police officer.

John Robinson of Jamieson Robinson LLC is representing a North Dakota man who claims then-Assistant Cody Police Chief George Menig violated his civil rights during a 2010 search.

The first page of Judge Rankin's order, sanctioning Robinson.
Robinson filed a report from a police practices expert in September to support Juan P. Flores’ allegations against Menig. In addition to offering the opinion that Menig acted inappropriately, the report cited information from Menig’s personnel file. That included a description of how the city of Cody investigated and disciplined Menig in connection with the 2010 search of Flores.

In part because it was the first public recounting of the city’s internal (and confidential) investigation on the incident, the Powell Tribune/Cody News Company wrote about the expert’s report. Other media outlets then picked up the story.

The problem for those involved with the case, however, is the information from Menig’s personnel file was not supposed to become public; the city had provided the documents about the internal investigation under a protective order that required them to stay confidential.

After the stories were published, lawyers for the city of Cody and the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office (which is representing Menig) asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin to sanction Robinson for allowing the information to become public. They said Meing’s reputation and his chance at a fair trail had been harmed.

Judge Rankin reprimanded Robinson at a court hearing conducted over the phone last week.


“No facts suggest (Robinson) intentionally violated the protective order in an attempt to harm (Menig),” Rankin wrote in an order after the hearing. “However, the Court also acknowledges the potential harm and embarrassment created by the published articles as confidential information about (Menig) was made public.”

In limiting the punishment to an oral reprimand, Rankin described the prejudice to Menig as “slight.” The magistrate also said Robinson took “responsibility for his actions and acted immediately to rectify his mistake.”

Robinson had the document sealed after the Tribune’s Oct. 1 story was brought to his attention by one of Menig’s attorneys. Robinson also contacted the Tribune on Oct. 5 to ask that the paper not pass its copy of the document along to others or delete it.

In his Nov. 24 order, Magistrate Rankin reminded Robinson to follow the rules and said to be more cautious when filing documents in the future.

The expert’s report was available as a public court record for about 11 days.

National Geographic selects Wapiti photographer's image as a Top Shot

“There’s nothing quite like the first snow of the season to fill your eyes with wonder,” said photographer Sandy Sisti of Wapiti.

As snow gently fell in Yellowstone National Park this autumn, Sisti photographed a grizzly cub surveying the scene — a bear fittingly known by wildlife photographers as “Snow.”

"Wonder" Photo courtesy Sandy Sisti, www.wildatheartimages.com
“I know I was excited to see the snow falling and can almost imagine this little grizzly cub felt the same way as he watched his home transform into a winter wonderland,” Sisti wrote in a description of the photograph.

Sisti’s image of Snow, which she titled “Wonder,” drew the attention of National Geographic editors.

Out of thousands of images uploaded to Your Shot — an online National Geographic photo community — editors pick a dozen of the best images each day.

Last week, the editors picked Sisti's image as one of their 12 favorite photos and online voters named it their favorite.

“I felt incredibly honored and humbled to have one of my images selected as a Top Shot by National Geographic,” Sisti said Wednesday.

Sisti said the photograph is particularly special to her for many reasons.

Snow is a cub of the grizzly sow known as Raspberry, she said.

“I've been photographing Raspberry since she was a tiny cub growing up along the shore of Yellowstone Lake," Sisti said.

Sisti said she felt "incredibly honored and humbled" to earn the recognition from National Geographic.

Raspberry is now 8 years old, and Sisti said she was very excited to see the bear emerge with her first set of cubs this spring.

“Unfortunately, the smaller of the two cubs didn't make it, but this little fellow, known as ‘Snow’ because of his light coloration, seems to be thriving,” she said.


Sisti captured the image of Snow near Sylvan Lake just a few days before Yellowstone's East Entrance closed for the season, she said.

“Raspberry and Snow had been foraging near the roadside for most of October, but once the snow began to fall, the pair left the road and headed to their den,” Sisti said. “I was sorry to see them go, but look forward to seeing them again next year.”

Sisti lives in Wapiti and often photographs wildlife and scenic vistas in Yellowstone and the surrounding area. Earlier this year, she was featured in Outdoor Photographer, a leading publication for nature and wildlife photographers.

Sisti grew up in Long Island, New York, and made her first trip to Yellowstone in 1994. She quickly developed what she calls a “weird, crazy obsession" with America’s first national park. Sisti then searched for a job close to Yellowstone and moved to the area.

To view more of her images, visit www.wildatheartimages.com or follow her Facebook page, called Wild at Heart Images-Wildlife and Nature Photography.

Presidential contender Ben Carson to visit Cody?

A leading Republican presidential candidate — retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson — will visit Park County in the coming weeks or months, a local tea party leader predicts.

“They (Carson campaign officials) have acknowledged that they will come here to Cody, and I’m holding them to that,” Big Horn Basin TEA Party organizer Rob DiLorenzo said Tuesday on KODI-AM. “They have promised me they will do that.”

Ben Carson. Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via CC BY-SA 3.0
Carson is generally running second in national polls of the Republican field, behind real estate mogul Donald Trump. Campaign finance reports show Carson has been extremely popular among Wyoming’s political donors, raising some 2 1/2 times more money ($115,800) than any other presidential candidate through September.

In his appearance on KODI’s “Speak Your Piece,” DiLorenzo said Carson's campaign has told him the candidate might be able to visit the area as soon as the middle of this month — though it could also be early next year.

Carson’s campaign did not respond to an inquiry about the candidate’s schedule.

Bringing as many presidential candidates into the Big Horn Basin as possible is the TEA Party's main goal in 2016, DiLorenzo said.

“I think the people of Wyoming have an absolute right ... to hear from them firsthand, not to hear from them with a media filter,” DiLorenzo said on KODI, adding, “We’re not flyover country, and we shouldn’t be taken for granted by any political party or anyone.”

He said he asked for and got a pledge of support from the Wyoming Republican Party at a Nov. 14 meeting of the GOP’s leaders.


“The Republican party’s not making any efforts to bring these presidential candidates to Wyoming, but the Big Horn Basin TEA Party is, and we’ve had some success: We have Ben Carson coming,” DiLorenzo recalled telling the GOP’s state central committee.

A few Republican contenders have already made appearances in the state.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, visited Cheyenne and Casper in August, while U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stopped by Cheyenne about a week later. (The Big Horn Basin TEA Party, meanwhile, hosted Cruz’s father Rafael at an Aug. 15 picnic in Emblem.)

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also spoke in Cheyenne last month in a campaign stop/fundraiser for the Wyoming Liberty Group, but he dropped out of the presidential race the next day.

Dec 3, 2015

Cody woman sentenced for embezzling from Walmart

A former Cody Wal-Mart employee is serving five years of probation for embezzling around $5,000 from the store.

Gail R. Barber, 41, stole the money between November 2014 and early January 2015, according to charging documents.

She pleaded guilty to felony theft at a Nov. 12 hearing in Park County's District Court. The sentence of supervised probation, imposed by District Court Judge Steven Cranfill, was a plea deal offered by the Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Charging documents say Barber stole most of the money by using her position at Wal-Mart to repeatedly issue fake refunds to herself. An affidavit from then-Cody Police Officer Chris Wallace says Barber would pull up a random customer’s receipt, then pick a couple items to “refund” — putting the refunded money on her personal Wal-Mart card.

She also pocketed some cash and made money orders, with the store's total losses coming to $5,010.20, court records say.

It was the loading money from her customer service station onto her personal card that threw up red flags with Wal-Mart. The store’s asset protection manager confronted Barber with various evidence of her scheme on Jan. 9. She confessed and Cody police arrested her.

“Barber stated that she had some financial issues with a vehicle and stated her vehicle was going to be repossessed if she did not pay $3,000 to get caught up on what she owed,” Wallace recounted.

Barber served three days in jail before posting bail. Two to four years of prison time were suspended as part of the deal.

While on probation, Barber must obey the law and her probation officer and stay away from Wal-Mart, among other conditions.

In addition to repaying the store, Barber must also pay $245 to the court and $150 to a woman for a separate incident that wasn’t charged.

Woman's bail set at $15,000 after allegedly hurting her child, attacking her parents and deputies

As Park County Sheriff’s deputies carried the yelling woman to a patrol vehicle on Saturday, she demanded to know her charges.

Melissa Briggs (a.k.a. Melissa Flores) was formally read all eight of them on Tuesday: a felony count of aggravated assault and battery, a felony count of child abuse, two felony counts of assaulting a peace officer, two misdemeanor counts of interference with a peace officer and two misdemeanor counts of domestic battery.

Melissa Briggs (a.k.a. Melissa Flores)
Briggs, 35, is alleged to have choked and kicked her 62-year-old mother, slammed her 10-year-old child’s wrist in a door, punched and kicked her 62-year-old father — who was on crutches as he recovered from a recent surgery — and then fought with deputies as they tried to arrest her Saturday evening.

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters set Briggs’ bond at $15,000 cash at her Tuesday appearance at the Park County Courthouse. She posted that amount and was released on Thursday.

The Sheriff's Office described Briggs as being from Cody, but she told the court on Tuesday that she lives in Lander. Briggs said she’d been working as a part-time para-educator at an elementary school in Riverton.

An affidavit from Park County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chad McKinney filed in support of the charges suggests that Saturday’s incident began when Briggs’ 10-year-old daughter asked if she could call her other grandmother, who also lives in Cody.

Briggs — who’d reportedly been sneaking off to drink throughout the day — didn’t want her child to call the woman, Briggs’ mother later told McKinney.

When the girl tried leaving the room to use Briggs’ mother’s phone, Briggs slammed the door and it caught the child in the wrist, McKinney wrote of Briggs’ mother’s account. Briggs is then alleged to have got her mother on the floor and begun choking her.


Briggs’ father had been staying in bed as he recovered from surgery, but he intervened to get Briggs off of her mother; Briggs then began hitting him, the charging documents allege.

During the altercation, Briggs is alleged to have also kicked her mother in the stomach, pulled her hair and pushed on her throat with enough force that she struggled to breathe, according to the accounts from her parents to the Sheriff’s Office.

Briggs pushed, kicked and punched her father and threw a bowl, a cup and an apple during the altercation, McKinney wrote of the parents’ account.

The Sheriff’s Office was summoned to Briggs’ parents’ home on Sage Creek Road just east of Cody around 6 p.m. McKinney and the other responding deputy, Justin Kroeker, found Briggs’ father on top of her, trying to restrain her.

Briggs resisted being handcuffed, then refused to walk to the patrol vehicle, McKinney wrote. He and Kroeker carried Briggs to the vehicle, but she fought against going inside.

She twice kicked the door open, hitting Kroeker, and scratched McKinney’s right hand (causing it to bleed) and pinched the skin on his left forearm (leaving a bruise), McKinney wrote.

A preliminary hearing in the case is tentatively set for Friday.

(Editor's note: This version corrects Briggs' first name in the photo caption.)

Dec 2, 2015

Buffalo Bill Center of the West to host holiday open house on Saturday

Entertainers, raptors, cookies and Santa Claus will all be on hand for Saturday's annual holiday open house at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

The 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. event coincides with a full slate of celebrations and activities in Cody -- including the Christmas Stroll and Lighted Parade, the Festival of Trees and Old Trail Town Christmas.
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is getting into the holiday spirit with its annual open house. Courtesy photo

Although the holiday open house is free, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is encouraging all attendees to get into the spirit of the season by bringing a can of non-perishable food or a new, unwrapped toy to share. The center will pass the donations along to Cody Cupboard and Holiday Helpers for distribution to those in need throughout the community.

The center decks the halls for the occasion, and serves up cookies and treats made by staff and volunteers. Santa Claus will visit with children and look over their Christmas lists.

Two different spots in the center will feature live entertainment throughout the day. That includes school, family and community groups, as well as local performing arts organizations. Multiple programs will be offered, including holiday music by choruses, choirs and jazz bands and dances in a variety of styles.

The birds of the Draper Museum Raptor Experience, one of the center’s most popular programs, will help celebrate the holiday. Attendees can view the birds — golden eagle, great-horned owl, peregrine falcon, red tailed hawk, turkey vulture and American kestrel — and ask questions of their handlers in the center’s Draper Natural History Museum.

In addition,  the center’s Cody Firearms Museum will reopen two revamped galleries, one featuring the Browning Arms Company, and the other featuring the popular exhibition, “Journeying West: Distinctive Firearms from the Smithsonian.” Ashley Hlebinsky, firearms curator, will be on hand to talk about both displays with interested visitors.

Visit www.centerofthewest.org/event/holiday-open-house for the full schedule.

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