By Sarah Pridgeon
Mayor Steve Sproul of Moorcroft has elevated his appeal against a misdemeanor conviction for unlawful bodily contact, rendered by jury trial in 2016 after an incident at Town Hall in which he allegedly argued with a member of the council and then pushed past him to leave. The appeal has now been filed with the Supreme Court of Wyoming.
Sproul first appealed the decision in July, 2017 on the basis that two jurors were “sleeping intermittently” throughout the day-long trial. Judge Matthew Castano denied the motion, ruling that Sproul failed to establish he suffered prejudice as a result of the jurors’ “brief periods of inattention”.
Sproul again appealed the decision in District Court. Judge Thomas Rumpke affirmed the decision of Circuit Court and upheld the verdict.
On August 30, Sproul filed a petition for writ of review in the Supreme Court, requesting that Rumpke’s order be reviewed, Circuit Court’s conviction be reversed or the issue be remanded to Circuit Court for a new trial.
In the petition, Sproul’s attorneys question whether District Court erred in concluding that the statute under which he was sentenced does not require proof of bodily injury. If “unlawful contact” should in fact require bodily injury, the petition argues that the State failed to prove bodily injury had occurred.
Sproul’s attorneys further question whether District Court was wrong to say the statute is not “unconstitutionally void for vagueness” if it does not include a bodily injury element.
Thirdly, the issue of sleeping jurors is again raised and the potential prejudice against Sproul this may have caused. Finally, the petition suggests that the inclusion of three character witnesses during the trial may have been an abuse of discretion.
According to the petition, the three witnesses only gave testimony regarding “contested alleged prior bad acts”. The witnesses included Dan Blakeman, terminated by Sproul from his position as town administrator; Jesse Connally, who testified that Sproul had body checked her a year before; and Council Member Owen Mathews, who the petition claims had opposed Sproul’s candidacy, and supported Connally’s claim.
Rumpke’s ruling last month found that the inclusion of these three witnesses was valid because Sproul’s defense was based on the idea that the incident at Town Hall had been an accident.