Moorcroft mayor appeals guilty sentence

By Sarah Pridgeon

Mayor Steve Sproul of Moorcroft has appealed the jury’s guilty verdict on a misdemeanor charge of “unlawful bodily contact: rude, insolent or angry touches without bodily injury” following an incident at Town Hall in July, 2016, during which he is said to have argued with a member of the council and pushed past him to leave, causing the councilman to fall against the doorframe.

In August, Judge Matthew Castano imposed a sentence of 30 days in jail, 28 suspended, as well as six months of probation including an anger management evaluation and a $250 fine. Attorneys Woodhouse, Roden, Nethercott LLC filed a motion on behalf of Sproul to stay that sentence pending appeal.

The motion requests the stay of sentence on the basis that the defendant has “several good faith grounds for appeal”, the most notable being the admission of “multiple jurors” that they fell asleep during the trial. In July, Sproul asked the court to declare a mistrial on the same basis, but the motion was denied on the basis that his attorney, Steven Titus, failed to establish that he suffered any prejudice as a result of the two jurors’ “brief periods of inattention”.

The motion for a stay of sentence also claims Sproul is not likely to flee, as he has appeared at all court proceedings and maintained contact with counsel, and that he does not pose a threat to the community because this was an isolated incident.

The state’s response to the motion, penned by County Attorney Joe Baron, points out that the crime was one of violence and that Sproul has shown no remorse and claimed at his sentencing hearing that he was, “retreating from the threat of Dick Claar by shoving him into a door jam”. Given that lack of remorse, Baron argues, Sproul may not ultimately appear for incarceration.

Judge Castano granted the motion to stay the sentence on September 15, pending the outcome of the appeal. Sproul was admitted to bail at the same time.

The appeal will be heard in District Court. The judge assigned to the case will remand it back to Circuit Court for a new trial or hearing if they find grounds to believe the jury was wrong; or, alternatively, they will uphold the findings of the court.