Wyoming news briefs for March 29

Cheyenne man pleads guilty to strangulation, property destruction

CHEYENNE – Eric Earl Carter pleaded guilty to felony strangulation of a household member and felony property destruction in two separate cases as part of a plea agreement.

In the agreement, the state and defendant jointly recommended sentences of three years of probation, with a suspended sentence of three to five years of incarceration, for each count. The sentences would run concurrently.

Additional charges in both cases – two counts of misdemeanor domestic battery (first offense), misdemeanor driving under the influence and three additional misdemeanor driving offenses – would be dismissed at sentencing.

Froelicher scheduled Carter’s sentencing for July 1.

In the strangulation case, Carter’s then-girlfriend reported to Cheyenne Police that, on Oct. 19, Carter beat her up during an argument, causing injury. At one point, he put her in a headlock and squeezed her neck, according to court documents. When police arrived, Carter repeatedly told the woman not to open the door for them and physically blocked her from doing so.

In the property destruction case, Carter was charged with involvement in a hit and run on Jan. 16, 2020. Cheyenne Police officers responded to the intersection of Alexander Avenue and East Pershing Boulevard, where they apprehended Carter with the help of witnesses, according to court documents. Carter seemed intoxicated and was arrested.

Witnesses said Carter was tailgating a woman’s vehicle when he rear-ended her. The woman got out of the vehicle to speak to Carter when he suddenly struck her vehicle five times, pushing it forward, while two young children were still inside. Carter then left the scene.


Laramie man charged with threatening state, federal elected officials

LARAMIE — Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray announced on Friday the unsealing of an indictment, under U.S. District Court Docket Number 21-CR29-S, charging Christopher Kent Podlesnik, 51, Laramie, with seven counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce. 

In the indictment, a federal grand jury charged Podlesnik with leaving voicemail messages threatening various elected officials on Jan. 28, including members of Congress. 

Podlesnik made his initial appearance by video-teleconference before the Honorable Mark L. Carman, a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Wyoming. Podlesnik is scheduled to appear for an arraignment and detention hearing on March 30. A future jury trial should be scheduled at that time. 

“As Americans, we cherish the freedoms secured by our Bill of Rights, including our freedom of speech,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray. “However, true threats of violence are not protected by the Constitution.

“Working with the FBI and other partners, the United States Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate such threats and seek charges in appropriate cases.” 

“The FBI remains committed to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans to include First Amendment protected speech. We are equally committed to investigating violations of federal law when speech threatens violence and physical harm to others,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. 

Per count, a person convicted of transmitting threats in interstate commerce faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. 

An indictment merely contains allegations, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Jackson marijuana legalization advocate sentenced to jail for pot delivery

JACKSON – A judge told Casey Hardison at his sentencing hearing this week that it’s fine to advocate for changing drug laws, but that delivering large amounts of marijuana in Teton County isn’t the way to go about it.

In 9th Judicial District Court, Judge Timothy Day sentenced Hardison on Tuesday to a year in the county jail for two felony counts of delivery of marijuana.

“The court understands that around the country and even in Wyoming some of the laws may be changing,” Day said in court, referencing the possible legalization of marijuana. “But it hasn’t yet, and the court is bound to the law as it stands. I mentioned before that I appreciated Mr. Hardison’s constitutional arguments and found them to be at the very least quite interesting.”

Hardison pleaded no contest to two felony delivery charges in an agreement with prosecutors.

The defendant has been vocal about his opinions regarding the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act, saying it’s unconstitutional. Judge Day said those arguments are better suited for the Wyoming Supreme Court, so Hardison took a plea deal and reserved his rights to appeal and make his case at a higher court.

Hardison had been facing five felony charges, including aggravated assault, stemming from a 2018 undercover drug buy that involved the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. Hardison continued to argue that there was no evidence of an assault, whereas the agents accused him of trying to run them over with his car and leading them on a pursuit through Jackson.

Hardison is supposed to turn himself in to the Teton County Jail early next week, but an appeal is likely, which would pause his sentence.


Cheyenne man sentenced to prison for soliciting sex act from minor

CHEYENNE – A local man convicted of third-degree solicitation of sex from a minor was sentenced Thursday in Laramie County District Court.

James Arthur Ostermeier was sentenced to four to six years in prison by Laramie County District Judge Peter Froelicher, with 411 days of credit for time served. Ostermeier previously pleaded guilty to the charge as part of a plea agreement.

Three additional felony charges of failure to register as a sex offender were dismissed at sentencing. According to court documents, Ostermeier was charged with, and later admitted to, not keeping his sex offender registration up to date.

On Jan. 10, 2020, a man reported to the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department that a neighbor had offered his 15-year-old son money in exchange for a sexual act, according to court documents. The neighbor was identified as Ostermeier, who is a registered sex offender.

Froelicher said he considered probation for Ostermeier, but decided he wasn’t an appropriate candidate “based upon the serious nature of the offense.” 

Ostermeier also has a high risk of reoffending, according to a pre-sentence report.

“I know what I did was wrong. I’d like to say to everybody involved (that) I apologize, I’m very sorry for what I did,” Ostermeier said during Thursday’s court hearing. “I’m ready and willing to accept the punishment I deserve and what you deem appropriate for my actions.”