Wyoming News Briefs - Thursday


February 4, 2021

Campbell GOP has no plans for Cheney censure

GILLETTE (WNE) — As it stands now, the Campbell County Republican Party has no plans to censure Rep. Liz Cheney for her vote to impeach former president Donald Trump in January.

The Campbell County Republican Party Central Committee met last week, and the topic of censuring Cheney was not discussed.

Party Chairwoman Vicki Kissack said that if censureship had come up to a vote, she probably wouldn’t have voted for it.

“By principle, I don’t agree with them,” she said. “They have no teeth.”

“It’s a fancy way of saying ‘I don’t like you,’” said precinct committeeman Doug Camblin. “It has no power.”

In the 2020 presidential election, Trump received 87% of the vote in Campbell County, and Cheney got the support of 83% of local voters in her race. In the general election, Cheney defeated Republican challenger Blake Stanley with 69% of the vote in Campbell County.

Kissack said the makeup of the local GOP’s central committee is vastly different this year. Dozens of new precinct committee people were elected in the August primary election, and took their seats in January.

While Campbell County’s legislative delegation has moved in a more conservative direction, the central committee has become more moderate or progressive, Kissack said.

“I don’t think a censureship would pass” with the current central committee, she added.

There are better, more effective ways to respond to Cheney’s decision, Kissack said. She plans to focus her time and energy on the 2022 mid-term elections, where Cheney will be up for reelection.


Man pleads not guilty in Jackson stabbing case

JACKSON (WNE) — A not guilty plea was entered for Riley Sills on Wednesday morning in Teton County District Court.

Sills is in Teton County Jail charged with attempted murder in the second degree after police said he stabbed a man Dec. 30 outside his Jackson apartment. He was then the subject of a lengthy, overnight standoff with police that went well into the afternoon on New Year’s Eve.

In previous court hearings the Jackson man has said he’s innocent.

At a preliminary hearing in January, Jackson police Detective Amanda White testified that the victim heard Sills say, “You die! You die!” just before the stabbing.

Police said Sills allegedly attacked Benjamin Sanchez-Nieto the night of Dec. 30 as he was getting home from work. Sanchez-Nieto lives near Sills, but they don’t know each other, according to police.

Sanchez-Nieto, 53, told Sills to get away and threatened to call the cops. White testified that at first Sanchez-Nieto thought Sills punched him in the chest, but realized he’d been stabbed and called 911 as Sills ran back up to his apartment.

When Jackson police Sgt. Phil Smith contacted Sills not long after the stabbing, Sills threatened to kill Smith, court records state.

Police said Sills then barricaded himself inside his apartment, triggering the standoff with town officers and county deputies.

Police evacuated 16 people overnight for their safety. Sills was eventually taken into custody by a specialized tactical team.


Cheney censured by Crook County GOP

SUNDANCE (WNE) — The Crook County Republican Party has voted to censure U.S. Representative Liz Cheney for her recent actions in supporting the impeachment of ex-President Donald Trump.

“Like a lot of the counties around the state, we are disappointed in her decision,” says Roget Connett, Chairman of the local party. “It was unanimous on the vote.”

Cheney has attracted criticism from Republicans across Wyoming who do not feel she was representing this state’s interests when she voted, alongside nine other House Republicans, in favor of the second impeachment of Trump.

Following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, she announced her intention to do in the following statement: “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

The majority of the county’s 34 precinct men and women were present for the vote at last week’s meeting. The censure resolution does not have legal ramifications for Cheney; rather, it is a way to express the party’s feelings on the matter.

“A censure is just a way of letting her know we’re not happy with her and we’re not happy with what she did,” explains Connett.


Man accused of assaulting 14-year-old girl

BUFFALO (WNE) — Guy Degroff, 51, of Buffalo, faces a maximum of 106 years in prison and $26,000 in fines, if convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old.

During an arraignment on Dec. 14 in the Fourth Judicial District Court, Degroff pleaded not guilty to three felony charges, including sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree,

sexual assault in the first degree and felonious restraint. He also pleaded not guilty to one misdemeanor charge of promoting obscenity.

Police allege that the sexual abuse, sexual assault and felonious restraint charges stem from an incident that occurred in early summer 2016. The promoting obscenity charge stems from an incident that occurred in early fall 2020.

On Aug. 7, 2020, a Gillette Police Department investigator forwarded a report from the victim's mother to the Johnson County Sheriff's Office. The report stated that the victim was staying with her aunt, who was dating Degroff at the time of the assault.

Court documents allege that one night after the victim had fallen asleep, the assailant handcuffed her to the bed and removed her clothes. According to the report, the victim was fearful and crying, as Degroff sexually assaulted her.

Police also allege that Degroff, on several occasions in 2020, sent offensive and pornographic messages to the victim via Facebook Messenger.

Degroff's jury trial is scheduled for May 17, and his pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 3. He is being held in the Johnson County Detention Center on a $50,000 bond.


Man accused of leading police on two chases

SUNDANCE (WNE) — A county resident led law enforcement on two high speed chases in the space of one evening on the weekend.

According to an initial report from the Sheriff’s Office, a deputy responded to a residence in the county, south of Moorcroft, at around 7:18 p.m. on January 31 for a report of a verbal domestic disturbance. He reports seeing two people standing in the yard, one of whom was later identified as William Hamilton.

Hamilton allegedly demanded to know why the deputy was there; the second person advised they had called 911. The deputy reports that Hamilton refused to comply with commands to come towards his patrol vehicle and instead entered the residence, emerging moments later.

Hamilton allegedly got into a black vehicle and left the scene by driving through a neighboring yard. Along with a Moorcroft police officer, the deputy pursued Hamilton.

The peace officers report eventually losing contact with Hamilton and returning to the residence.

Hamilton returned to the scene and a second deputy initiated another pursuit with the vehicle,.

A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper assumed the primary pursuit position on Wyoming Highway 116 due to speeds reaching well over 100 miles per hour. The pursuit was terminated due to safety concerns created by dust and a lack of visibility.

At around 10:50 p.m., dispatch received a report that Hamilton was at another residence on Iron Run Road.

Two troopers and two deputies responded to the residence and Hamilton was taken into custody without incident.


Big Horn GOP censures Cheney

GREYBULL (WNE) — Big Horn County Republican Party leaders voted unanimously on Monday night to join a number of other Wyoming counties in censuring U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for her recent vote in favor of the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

The resolution from the Central Committee of the Big Horn County Republican Party has since been forwarded to the State Central Committee, which meets Friday and Saturday in Rawlins, according to Scott Brown. A resident of Lovell, Brown serves as Big Horn County’s state central committeeman, where he’s joined as a voting member by his wife who is state committeewoman and BHC Republican Party Chairman Gary Welch.

The approval of the censure came during an “emergency” Zoom session which Brown described as being “probably the most well attended meeting we’ve had since the convention last spring,” with about 16 people listening in and participating.

“Of the people who commented — I think there were nine of them — all were very much in favor of the resolution,” he said.

He acknowledged that there was one non-voting Republican who asked that the committee hold off until Cheney has had a chance to tell her side of the story.

Brown said he and other Big Horn County GOPers have tried reaching out to Cheney, but have not received a response.


Cheyenne airport strengthens mask rules

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Following an executive order by President Joe Biden, Cheyenne Regional Airport’s mask requirements will become much stricter under a security directive received Sunday by airport officials.

Going forward, every person (except kids age 2 years old and under) will be required to wear a mask with straps that go around the ears at all times, including between bites or sips when eating or drinking.

Those who do not comply will be escorted from the airport, barred from re-entry until a mask is put on and have a report filed on the incident with the national Airport Security Program. Additionally, passengers without a mask may be denied entry, boarding or continued transport, and failure to comply with the mask requirement can result in civil penalties.

According to Cheyenne Regional Airport General Manager Nathan Banton, the biggest changes are that there’s far fewer exemptions for mask wearing and more strict requirements about what qualifies as a mask; gaiters and face shields are not an acceptable form of protection.

Still, he said some details are still unclear for the local airport, including what will happen with the reports that are filed.

“We’re asking a lot of questions; we’re pushing back a little bit, just trying to narrow the scope of the order,” Banton said.

“But currently, we’re just asking for people’s cooperation and understanding that these are not our rules that we’re putting in place. This is a federal mandate, and we’re doing our best to just work through it.”


Penney statue arrives in Kemmerer

KEMMERER (WNE) — Visitors to Kemmerer on Friday, Jan. 29, would have been amazed to see a 9-foot bronze statue standing up on a trailer being pulled about the Triangle.

Those who have been following the city, however, would know it is the J.C. Penney statue, desk and plaques donated to Kemmerer by the J.C. Penney Corporation.

Back in December 2020, the Kemmerer City Council was approached by the J.C. Penney Corporation about a donation to the city. The statue, along with a desk and many plaques, sat in the rotunda at the J.C. Penney headquarters in Plano, Texas. Because of bankruptcy and other circumstances, J.C. Penney had to move headquarters and the massive statue just couldn’t fit.

The corporation offered to donate the statue to Kemmerer if they could take it as soon as possible. The council met and approved the donation as well as the cost of taking it down and storing it. Since then, the council has been discussing ways to get the statue to Kemmerer.

Suddenly, early in January, an offer came to the attention of the council. Vivianos Concrete, a local contractor, was in Texas doing business at that moment. They offered to bring the statue back up to Kemmerer with them.

The Kemmerer City Council held a special meeting and approved up to $3,200 to pay for Vivianos Concrete to haul the statue and other donated items to Kemmerer.

The statue arrived in Kemmerer on Jan. 28, after it was already dark, so, they did a ceremonial re-entry into Kemmerer on Jan. 29, at 12 p.m. with the statue standing straight up and the desk displayed prominently.


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