Volume 7, Number 7 - May 10, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Rancher says SCSO violated his, others’ rights
On April 22, Jim Urbigkit was taken from his home roughly 10 miles east of Big Piney along the New Fork River to the Sublette County Jail on the charge of interference with a peace office, but when he showed up for his court date, he wasn’t on the docket and there were no charges filed against him.
“I don’t think I’m important at all,” the 52-year-old Sublette County resident said. “I think the case is pretty important.”
Urbigkit said that on the morning of April 22 there was a black bear in the sheep, “and I shot it and that’s legal.”
Urbigkit has lived in Sublette County off and on over the years, with the last stretch starting in 1982. For the past 10 years, Urbigkit has lived on Paradise Road, off Highway 351, and now at a residence for the past year along the New Fork River where he and his family wintered 140 head of sheep.
He explained that one of the requirements for trophy game or fur-bearer killed to protect property is reporting. So after calling the local Wyoming Game and Fish (WG&) and not getting an answer, Urbigkit called the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO).
A deputy was dispatched.
Urbigkit said the deputy came out and started asking questions, which he refused to answer.
“If there is any chance of any question of legal actions,” he said, “you do not do an interview with law enforcement. I didn’t think it was any big deal.”
“(However), the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office has a policy, if (you) don’t answer questions before you’ve been charged with a crime, they arrest (you) for interference with a peace officer,” he added.
Urbigkit said the SCSO has apparently been applying this policy in cases of driving while under the influence or possession cases.
Before the arrest, Urbigkit said, “I didn’t care that they were violating the rights of criminals. As soon as they pull it on somebody who hasn’t broken the law, you realize how wrong it is.”
Urbigkit said he argued with the deput, and even called the deputy’s supervisor.
“I thought the supervisor would fix it,” he said. “(The supervisor) was in a rage at me. ... He started hollering ... ‘He’s going to arrest you for interference and you do not have a right to attorney.’”
Urbigkit was arrested, booked and fingerprinted, then put in an orange jump suit while waiting for the judge to set bail.
“It’s pretty disruptive even on a Sunday afternoon,” Urbigkit said, adding that it was also “embarrassing.”
Urbigkit said that in light of the day’s events, his son Cass stayed home rather than attend a school activity.
“They could have arrested the whole family,” he said. “Cass couldn’t leave because we didn’t know if they would come back and arrest Cass.”
He added: “We have no security or assurance of freedom right now. ... I have no security here. ... I don’t think anybody could live like that.”
Urbigkit was released after posting $1,000 bond and a pending court date of May 3 in the Sublette County Circuit Court.
But when he got to the courtroom on May 3, there wasn’t a charge against him and he wasn’t on the docket.
“(Circuit Court Judge Curt) Haws refused to take any action on the case because there was no case before him,” Urbigkit said. “Even though I’d been issued a must-appear citation ... I got to court and there’s nothing.”
Urbigkit said the case should be a civil suit, but “(Haws) did not place any restrictions on the Sheriff’s Office from doing this again.”
Last week, Randy Hanson, investigator and media communication specialist with the Sublette County Attorney’s Office, said the county attorney’s office had not yet decided how to proceed with the case.
Undersheriff Jim Whinnery said last week that Urbigkit had been arrested for interference with a peace officer but would not comment further.
The day of Urbigkit’s court appearance, Pinedale Online posted his story in detail with photos taken by Urbigkit’s wife, Cat. Pinedale Online Editor Dawn Ballou concluded her story stating that the question before the court would not be about whether a rancher had a right to protect livestock or not, but rather, a question of exercising constitutional rights in Urbigkit’s refusal to answer questions from law enforcement without an attorney before charges were filed.
But neither question was before the court, as the county attorney’s office did not file a charge and Urbigkit was left off the docket.
This week, there is no comment on the matter from either the SCSO or the county attorney’s office.
While Urbigkit would talk about the arrest, he refused to make any further statements about the bear shooting.
Urbigkit said WG&F had no problem with his shooting bear, but he didn’t know about the SCSO.
“I just cannot say anything about it,” he said of the shooting. “There is no doubt in my mind that these guys (SCSO) will arrest me if they have any justification. If this is a sheriff’s department policy, people should not be holding this against an individual deputy in the field.”
“Maybe it’s a good thing that they finally pulled this on somebody who hadn’t broken the law ... Maybe we can get it corrected statewide,” Urbigkit added.
Neither Whinnery nor Sheriff Wayne “Bardy” Bardin were available for comment this week. SCSO Lt. Hayes Randol said Tuesday that per the county attorney’s office the SCSO is releasing no information and making no comment at this time.
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