Passing on a court case

The Albany County Attorney’s Office requested the County Commission on Tuesday to appoint a special prosecutor to handle a criminal case after several threats were made to law enforcement and court officials involved.

The case the attorney’s office is looking to appoint a special prosecutor for is Wyoming versus William Keller, where the defendant allegedly violated a protection order.

Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said by appointing a special prosecutor, Albany County officials who were threatened by the individual would be removed from the case to make room for a prosecutor from Laramie County. In exchange for helping in this criminal matter, Albany County prosecutors would help Laramie County with a similar case.

“It is the county attorney’s office’s intent to request that Laramie County would be appointed on a specific case,” Trent said.

“Our office filled a revocation of the criminal offense — violating of an order of protection — and now the defendant has made threats toward a deputy as well as myself and (Circuit Court Judge Robert) Castor.”

The court case would continue through the legal process just as any other case in Albany County would, the main difference would be the prosecution would be coming from Laramie County, she said.

“We basically just substitute another prosecutor who has not been in this situation or threatened to handle the case,” Trent said.

“It provides a basis to make sure that the defendant receives a fair trial and prosecution and how the case is being presented.”

Because people can become upset when going through the legal system, threats made by individuals have to show the person intends to inflict harm on someone before it goes to a special prosecutor, she said. If the threats are found to be credible, special prosecution can be provided, which happened twice in 2015.

“Occasionally, suspects and individuals may make statements that are addressed or directed toward law enforcement or prosecutors out of frustration of the situation that they are in,” Trent said. “The question becomes whether the statements made rise to the level of whether they want to cause harm and carrying out those statements.”

Working with prosecutors from other counties is the first choice for many county officials when choosing a special prosecutor for a case because the county requesting the assistance would only have to pay for mileage, rather than hiring new prosecution for the case, she said.

“Instead of hiring private counsel and a private entity to be appointed as a special prosecutor, we first look to governmental entities so that we are helping each other financially as well as handling a conflict,” Trent said.

The motion to approve a special prosecutor passed 3-0, with no commissioners absent or abstaining.

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