Wyo Lawyer Common defends cop accused of mendacity in hemp case – Casper, WY Oil Metropolis Information

This hemp crop, at the Egles’ farm in Albin near the Nebraska border, was seized by DCI after farmers had harvested it and were drying it in a barn on the property. (Joshua Egle)

June 3, 2021 by Andrew Graham, WyoFile

The Wyoming Attorney General’s office is defending a Division of Criminal Investigation officer whom the Wyoming Supreme Court found lied on the stand during a controversial hemp farming case.

The Supreme Court on May 19 censured and fined a Laramie County prosecutor for allowing DCI Special Agent Jon Briggs to make false testimony as law enforcement sought to prosecute a pair of hemp farmers as marijuana traffickers. 

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On May 21, the AG’s office made clear its support for Briggs. Deputy Attorney General Jenny Craig filed a motion calling for the Supreme Court to redact Briggs’ name from its report on the matter and remove any statements indicating he gave false testimony. In the motion, Craig argued DCI had conducted an internal review that cleared Briggs and that the state’s highest court lacks authority to discipline a DCI officer, at least in this case.

“The [Wyoming Board of Professional Responsibility], the Wyoming State Bar, and this Court did not have jurisdiction to determine whether Agent Briggs engaged in wrongdoing or impose discipline against him,” Craig wrote. 

The Board of Professional Responsibility is a committee of five lawyers and two non-lawyers that holds hearings on attorney discipline matters, according to the Wyoming Bar Association website. 

In last month’s ruling, the court found Briggs testified falsely about a critical exchange with one of the defendants that occurred when officers raided the hemp farm outside Albin. Briggs lied again in a subsequent hearing about not having read an emailed request from defense attorney Tom Jubin asking him to correct his false testimony, the high court found.

The prosecutor, then-Laramie County Senior Assistant District Attorney David Singleton, made no effort to correct the testimony in either case, the Supreme Court found. 

Jubin has called for Briggs to face consequences from DCI, Wyoming’s statewide investigative agency, which is overseen by the AG’s office. 

The AG’s office argues the Supreme Court also denied Briggs’ right to due process by failing to give him a chance to offer his side of the story before issuing a ruling that has impacted his career. Neither the court nor the bar committee interviewed Briggs, Craig wrote. 

Craig declined to speak about the case, saying the AG’s office does not comment on pending court cases. Gov. Mark Gordon nominated Bridget Hill to be the Wyoming Attorney General and she was sworn in on March 15, 2019. 

Dispute stems from troubled hemp case

The damning report against Briggs from the state’s highest court came nine months after a Laramie County judge threw out the case against Debra Palm-Egle and her son Joshua Egle, hemp farmers and industry advocates who helped legalize the crop in Wyoming.  

Singleton had sought to charge the Egles, along with a contractor and his wife, Brock and Shannon Dyke, with drug trafficking conspiracy charges that could have resulted in decades in prison. Briggs investigated the case. The Dykes were on the farm in November 2019 when DCI raided the property and seized 700 pounds of hemp.

A photograph included in a court filing shows Deb Palm-Egle and her son, Josh Egle, to the right of the photograph, with Gov. Mark Gordon at the March 2019 signing of a bill legalizing hemp production. In November of the same year, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents raided the mother-son team’s farm in Albin. (Screenshot from court filing)

Law enforcement officers in tactical gear and armed with rifles and a battering ram conducted the seizure, Brock Dyke previously told WyoFile.

During the raid, Dyke showed DCI agents test results that indicated the plants had low-enough THC concentrations to be classified as hemp, not marijuana. That moment was the one Briggs would later give false testimony about in a Laramie County courtroom, according to the Wyoming Supreme Court. 

Briggs testified on July 9, 2020 that he believed the results he was shown may have indicated THC levels above the legal limit for hemp. They did not, and Jubin provided him documentation in court. Briggs maintained he didn’t know if those were the results he’d seen. 

Jubin later emailed Briggs and asked the agent to correct the error in his testimony.

Hours after receiving Jubin’s email, Briggs sent text messages to Singleton to complain about the defense attorney’s email.

Singleton asked him about the contents of the email in one text message, and Briggs responded that Jubin had written “I’m giving you the chance to correct your testimony.” He also called the veteran Wyoming attorney “actually insane.”

When the trial resumed and Briggs returned to the stand on Aug. 6, 2020, he gave false testimony about the email exchange with Jubin, the Wyoming Supreme Court found. While questioning Briggs on the witness stand Jubin asked about his email seeking to correct the inaccuracy in Briggs’ previous testimony about the test results.

“To be honest, sir, I didn’t read your email,” Briggs responded. “I forwarded it to counsel.” 

Singleton has admitted to the court that he violated the rules governing attorney conduct by failing to correct testimony from the officer, even though he knew it was false. 

While Singleton was fined and censured, Briggs is suffering professional consequences from the Supreme Court’s order and a press release that drew media attention, Craig argued. Some prosecutors have already contacted DCI requesting Briggs not be put on their cases, Craig wrote in the court motion. 

His career in law enforcement is “seriously compromised,” Craig wrote. 

Jubin told WyoFile he had reached out to the AG’s office offering to assist with any possible investigation into Briggs’ testimony and it hadn’t responded to that outreach. 

Craig, however, wrote that DCI had conducted an internal investigation into Briggs’ testimony and cleared him. The agents conducting the internal investigation interviewed Briggs and his supervisor, Special Agent Tina Trimble. 

Trimble has faced her own public discipline recently. In April, she pled guilty to disturbing the peace in Cheyenne Municipal Court following a physical confrontation with a gym owner, according to the Casper Star Tribune

In his interviews, Briggs told investigators he hadn’t read the email, or at least, not really. 

“If I skimmed it that would be the extent of it,” Briggs told the internal investigators, according to Craig’s motion. “I don’t recall getting any jist [sic] of it,” he said, “I mean I am sure I saw words in it somewhere I didn’t know if that was the header of it was somewhere in the body of it, um yeah I was just so put off and disgusted that they would send me that and I don’t recall.” 

Trimble backed Briggs’s recollection. The investigators also interviewed Mark Gifford, the attorney who conducted the Wyoming State Bar’s investigation.

“I guess it’s possible that [Briggs] didn’t read it but that seems so out of whack with the tone and substance of the text,” Gifford said, according to Craig’s motion.   

The DCI investigators concluded Briggs had not lied on the stand. But it isn’t the last investigation Briggs will face. The Wyoming Peace Officer Training and Standards Commission is also investigating Briggs’ testimony, according to a report by Oil City News. 

That body, which also is under the purview of the AG’s office, has the ability to discipline and even decertify law enforcement officers.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

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