Wyoming news briefs for March 9

Wyoming unemployment rate falls slightly

CHEYENNE — The Research & Planning section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reported Monday that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 5.2 percent in December to 5.1 percent in January.

Wyoming has recently completed a comprehensive annual revision of its unemployment data. The revised data show that the state’s unemployment rate peaked at 8.5 percent in May 2020 and has steadily decreased since then. Wyoming’s January unemployment rate of 5.1 percent was much lower than the U.S. rate of 6.3 percent.

Most county unemployment rates followed their normal seasonal pattern and increased from December to January. Unemployment rates often rise in January as seasonal job losses are seen in many sectors, including construction, retail trade, transportation & warehousing, leisure and hospitality, and government.

The largest jobless rate increases were seen in Sublette (up from 6.7 percent to 8.3 percent), Big Horn (up from 4.7 percent to 6.2 percent), Niobrara (up from 3.9 percent to 5.2 percent), and Hot Springs (up from 4.4 percent to 5.6 percent) counties.

From January 2020 to January 2021, unemployment rates rose in nearly every county. The largest increases were seen in areas of the state dominated by the energy sector. Converse County’s unemployment rate rose from 3.5 percent to 6.7 percent, Natrona County’s rate rose from 5.2 percent to 8.2 percent, Campbell County’s rate rose from 4.4 percent to 7.0 percent, and Sweetwater County’s rate rose from 6.2 percent to 7.7 percent. In contrast to those increases, Big Horn County’s unemployment rate was unchanged from a year earlier at 6.2 percent.


Man arrested in six sex crimes

RIVERTON — A conspicuous notation on a recent Fremont County Sheriff's Office arrest record from shows a 43-year-old male arrested by the Riverton Police Department for six sex crimes.

The man remains anonymous, as Wyoming law orders protection of sex-crime detainees' identities unless and until they are sent to the district court on a demonstration of probable cause.

In fact, public employees who disclose the identity of defendants charged with sex crimes during the preliminary phase of prosecution are liable to be prosecuted themselves, with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and $750 in fines.

The detainee is registered as a resident of Sweetwater, Oklahoma.

His arrest lists five counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree, and one count of sexual assault in the first degree.

Charges of sexual assault are rare compared with those of sexual abuse, and the state would have to prove the use of mental or physical force, duress, or wrongful mental advantage to convict someone on the assault claim.

However, the penalties are similar: sexual abuse carries a maximum of 50 years in prison under first-degree circumstances, and assault is punishable by 5-50.

Most of the arrest-log notation labelled "sex offense" is redacted.

It was reported at 7:43 a.m. in the Riverton area on Feb. 25 and is "under investigation.”


Man sentenced to jail for punching teen

CODY — A man was sentenced to 14 days in jail after pleading guilty to child endangerment.

Per his plea agreement, his original felony charge for child abuse was reduced to the misdemeanor charge. 

Juan Marquez, 38, was arrested in August after the victim’s grandmother reported Marquez had punched a 13-year-old minor 10-20 times in the arm and smashed the victim’s face into the outside of a vehicle. The grandmother said this was in response to the victim telling Marquez they did not know how to drive the vehicle when he requested they take him to Powell.

The victim had bruising consistent with these allegations.

“The bruising was very obvious,” said Allen Cooper, a deputy with the Park County Sheriff’s Office.

When dropping the victim off at their grandmothers, he threatened the victim to not report anything about the incidents. 

Cooper viewed text messages from Marquez apologizing for his actions after the fact.

Marquez was arrested in July and served 56 days in Park County Detention Center initially. 

Judge Bill Simpson sentenced Marquez in Park County District Court Jan. 6.

He was also assessed one year of unsupervised probation and $400 in court fees.

Marquez has an extensive criminal history including battery, unlawful contact and violation of a protection order.


Yellowstone adopts reservation system for some campgrounds

JACKSON — Yellowstone National Park has announced that it is following in its southern neighbor’s footsteps and converting some campgrounds to reservation-only for the coming summer.

Earlier this year, Grand Teton National Park announced it was doing away with all first-come, first-served camping, and had converted its 800-plus sites spread throughout seven campgrounds to reservation-only.

The same shift in Yellowstone applies to the Mammoth and Slough Creek campgrounds and a portion of the Pebble Creek campground. Yellowstone concessionaire Xanterra already operated five of the park’s 12 campgrounds as reservation-only, and that leaves just five campgrounds with first-come, first-served sites — but two, Norris and Tower Falls campgrounds, will be closed in 2021.

Impromptu roadtrippers who roll into Northwest Wyoming’s two flagship national parks in summer 2021 are down to three spots where unplanned camping will be in the cards: Lewis Lake Campground, the Indian Creek Campground and a portion of Pebble Creek. Collectively, they offer 166 campsites that will be available without a reservation. With 30,000-plus visitors passing through Yellowstone during each peak summer day, there promises to be hearty competition.

According to Yellowstone’s public affairs office, the changes were made at the request of visitors.

“The ability to make reservations will enable visitors to plan their trips ahead of time and provide assurance that they will have a campsite upon arrival,” park officials wrote. “It will enrich the visitor experience by reducing traffic congestion at campgrounds, improving safety, and eliminate uncertainty and frustration.”