Wednesday Briefs

 

March 23, 2023



Kidnapping charges dropped against Gillette man; prison time still recommended for drug charge

GILLETTE (WNE) – Kidnapping charges have been dismissed for a man accused of hitting and dragging his girlfriend and keeping her inside their home for several days, but he still faces potential prison time for a drug charge.

Jason John Black, 48, pleaded guilty March 1 to felony meth possession and pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of domestic battery.

Two counts of felony kidnapping and another domestic battery misdemeanor were dismissed, per a deal with prosecutors.

In a plea agreement, prosecutors recommend a five- to seven-year prison sentence for the meth charge and concurrent 180-day jail sentences for the two domestic battery convictions.

While arguing with his girlfriend May 15 about how she had not returned home the night before, Black allegedly grabbed her mouth and neck from behind while she was in the driveway trying to leave, and he dragged her back inside, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.

Black then allegedly locked the doors, tackled her and smashed her phone and watch so that she could not call anyone. He then hit her in the face with the corner of her phone, according to court documents.

His girlfriend said Black was not drunk during the fight, but he may have been high on meth.

She was able to leave the house five days later on May 20 after Black had left the home. She had two black eyes and multiple other bruises.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested Black on Aug. 31 in Rozet after receiving information that he was working at a business there and living on-site.

Black was found with a plastic pill bottle wrapped in green electrical tape that held two bags of meth, totaling 8 grams without packaging, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

This story was published on March 28, 2023.

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Wyoming’s average gasoline prices drop another 5.5 cents in past week

CHEYENNE (WNE)— Average gasoline prices in Wyoming have fallen 5.5 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.26 per gallon on Monday, according to GasBuddy.com’s survey of 494 stations in Wyoming.

Prices in Wyoming are 14.4 cents per gallon lower than a month ago, and stand 80.3 cents per gallon lower than a year ago.The national average price of diesel has fallen 5.9 cents in the last week, and stands at $4.19 per gallon.

According to GasBuddy price reports, the lowest price in the state on Sunday was $2.95 per gallon, while the highest was $3.95, a difference of $1 per gallon.

The national average price of gasoline has fallen 0.3 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.40 per gallon on Monday.The national average is up 7.8 cents per gallon from a month ago, and stands 83 cents per gallon lower than a year ago, according to GasBuddy data.

The data is compiled from more than 11 million weekly price reports covering over 150,000 U.S. gas stations.

This story was published on Mar. 29, 2023.

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Passage of Fair & Open Competition Act allows level playing field for government contracts

DOUGLAS (WNE) — Associated Builders and Contractors praised the Wyoming legislature and Gov. Mark Gordon March 23 for enacting SF 147, the Fair and Open Competition Act, which protects Wyoming taxpayers by ensuring all of the state’s skilled construction workforce can compete on a level playing field for contracts to build state, state-assisted and local public works projects.

Once in effect July 1, Wyoming will be the 25th state with an active policy restricting the use of government-mandated project labor agreements.

Introduced by state Sen. Jim Anderson, R-District 68, this measure prevents the state and its localities from mandating controversial Project Labor Agreements on any taxpayer-funded construction project, thereby ensuring all Wyoming construction workers, including the approximately 97% of the state’s construction workforce that has chosen not to belong to a union, can build their communities.

“As the Biden administration continues its all-out assault on merit shop contractors, Wyoming has chosen to protect their construction workers and taxpayers by ensuring all projects in the state will be procured via fair and open competition, even if the project receives federal dollars,” ABC Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs Ben Brubeck said. “State leaders have sent the message that Wyoming doesn’t do business through political favoritism and discriminatory policy, and that all of Wyoming’s construction workforce is welcome to compete to rebuild their communities.”

This story was published on March 29, 2023.

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Man charged in Cheyenne kidnapping, assault case

CHEYENNE (WNE) — On Monday, at approximately 11:30 p.m., Cheyenne police were dispatched to a report of shots fired outside a residence near the 800 block of West Sixth Street.

According to statements, a verbal altercation between the suspect, Zachary Hernandez, 41, of Cheyenne, and three occupants of the house, two adult men and one adult woman, occurred in the alley behind the residence. During the argument, Hernandez allegedly fired several gunshots into the air and at an unoccupied parked vehicle. He then allegedly pointed his firearm in the direction of one of the men and forced the woman to enter a vehicle with him.

Once inside the vehicle, a white Kia, Hernandez fled the scene with the woman. He reportedly held a gun to her head and threatened to shoot her while she drove.

Responding officers were provided with a vehicle description and direction of travel. Minutes later, a Laramie County sheriff ’s deputy observed the Kia driving near the 400 block of Avenue C and initiated a high-risk traffic stop. Cheyenne police officers then arrested Hernandez without incident.

Hernandez was booked into the Laramie County jail on three felony counts of aggravated assault-threatening with a deadly weapon and one felony count of kidnapping-terrorizing the victim.

This story was published on March 29, 2023.

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Hightman pleads guilty to three felonies, jailed until sentencing

GILLETTE (WNE) — Nathan J. Hightman will await his sentencing hearing from jail after pleading guilty to three of the five felonies accusing him of financial crimes against his fiancé, Irene Gakwa, who has been missing from Gillette since last February.

Hightman, 39, pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to felony counts of theft, unlawful use of a credit card and crimes against intellectual property for taking $3,666.46 from Gakwa’s bank account, charging $3,230.65 to two of her credit cards and deleting her Gmail account without permission.

In exchange for Hightman’s cold pleas, he and his defense attorney, Dallas Lamb, and County Attorney Nathan Henkes, the prosecutor on the case, can argue for any sentencing up to the maximum allowed for each count.

The maximum sentence for each of the theft and unlawful use of a credit card convictions is up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. The maximum for the crimes against intellectual property count he was convicted of is three years in prison and/or a $3,000 fine.

Gakwa was last heard from on a video call with family on Feb. 25, 2022. The investigation into Gakwa’s disappearance began a day later, March 20. The crimes Hightman pleaded guilty to occurred between Feb. 26 and March 19 of the same year.

Hightman has been named a person of interest in the police investigation into Gakwa’s disappearance but has not been charged in connection to it.

The investigation into her disappearance is ongoing.

The change of plea removes the need for the 10-day trial that was scheduled to begin April 3.

When considering what to do with Hightman’s bond, the main questions were of whether he was a flight risk or a danger to the community.

This story was published on March 29, 2023.

 
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