From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 20 - August 9, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

County denies $1.75 million claim

by Janet Montgomery

Late Tuesday, Sublette County Commissioners unanimously denied the $1.75 million claim by Jim Urbigkit filed in response to an April 22 incident arrest. The claim says that Urbigkit’s constitutional and civil rights were violated when by an unlawful detention, false arrest and false imprisonment Urbigkit was arrested on April 22 for interference with an officer after calling the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) to report that he had shot a bear in his sheep herd.

The claim also alleges battery, abuse of authority and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

“The officers also committed a number of state common law claims in that they abused their position of authority, subjected (Urbigkit) to unlawful detention, false arrest, false imprisonment, conducted a battery on his person, and caused emotional distress further harassing and humiliating (Urbigkit) in arresting him without probably cause in front of his family and taking him away in hand cuffs to jail causing him embarrassment, shame, disgrace and mental anguish,” according to the claim.

Those named in the claim include the SCSO, Sheriff Wayne “Bardy” Bardin, Officer Brian Sparks, Undersheriff Jim Whinnery and any other officer or supervisor of the SCSO who was involved in the arrest and search of Urbigkit on April 22.

On April 22, Urbigkit attempted to first contact the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to report he had shot a bear on his ranch, but no one was available. Urbigkit then called the SCSO dispatch to advise that he had shot a bear. According to the claim, Sparks responded and began asking questions about the bear; before responding, Urbigkit told the officer he would answer questions provided his lawyer was present.

However, Sparks allegedly advised Urbigkit that he “did not have a right to a lawyer and that by not answering his questions, (Urbigkit) was guilty of interference with an officer and would be arrested,” according to the claim.

Sparks then apparently contacted Whinnery, “who supported and approved Officer Sparks’ insistence that (Urbigkit) must cooperate with Officer Sparks or he would be arrested and that he had no right to an attorney while being questioned.”

The claim says that Urbigkit continued to request a lawyer. Urbigkit also asked if he could be given a citation and report to court, but was formally arrested on charges of interference with an officer and placed in handcuffs.

On May 3, on an arraignment date to appear in the Sublette County Circuit Court, Urbigkit’s attorney Elizabeth Greenwood was notified by the State that the arraignment had been cancelled, “claiming they were not proceeding on the case.”

However, insisting on having a day in court, Urbigkit appeared with representation at the 1:30 p.m. time. “The Judge stated in substance there was nothing he could do on the criminal matter since the State was not proceeding with the prosecution, that it was clear that (Urbigkit) had not committed a crime and that any remedy would lay in a civil action,” according to the claim.

The claim asked for damage to be awarded on state common law for in an amount of $250,000, for constitutional and civil rights claims $500,000 and $1 million in exemplary damages.

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