SUBLETTE COUNTY – In the second part of Rex F. Rammell’s pretrial conference for not having brand inspections for horses he trailered between counties on June 27, 2019, the judge strongly advised him again to consider hiring an attorney.
Presiding 3rd Circuit Judge Gregory Corpening reviewed Rammell’s rights and possible outcomes before the one-day trial on April 28 in Sublette County Circuit Court.
Rammell declined needing an attorney but questioned the judge several times about what he can and cannot ask or say during the six-person jury trial.
The hour-long March 22 pretrial videoconference was the continuation of the original hour-long hearing on Feb. 17 with the judge, Rammell and deputy county attorney Stan Cannon.
Judge Corpening reminded Rammell that he and Cannon cannot advise him about proper courtroom procedures. If Rammell’s questions during jury selection or during trial stray off course, a mistrial could result, possibly with Rammell ordered to pay court costs, the judge said.
Rammell has defended himself since his first court appearance in 2019.
Deputy Ty Huffman stopped Rammell as he drove his truck and trailer with four horses and a nursing colt to a Sublette County pasture from Sweetwater County. The deputy asked Rammell for a brand inspection, which Rammell said he did not have, and the Sublette County Attorney’s Office filed five misdemeanor counts against him.
Rammell has argued the state brand inspection law, W.S. 11-21-103(a), is unconstitutional and violates his rights – last month he filed a civil petition in 9th District Court for declaratory judgment against the law. Nothing is scheduled yet.
Rammell moved for the jury trial to be continued until that decision but Judge Corpening denied it this week. The defendant said he mailed his pretrial amendments to Cannon, which was returned, and to Circuit Court, which did not have it.
This hearing was more focused on what can and cannot be argued at trial– the law’s constitutionality will not be allowed, only the facts of this specific case.
Five, four or one?
Rammell said he sent them information about another brand-inspection violation case of Melissa Meisner, cited for 39 brand-inspection violations after transporting her calves from Farson to the Pinedale area.
Usually one brand inspection covers an entire load of livestock, he said, asking why he was charged with five violations. Cannon said he would amend the complaint for four horses instead of five, because the colt was nursing.
“She settled,” Rammell said of Meisner. “She was charged with 39 counts and the Sublette County Attorney’s Office took 39 counts down to one.”
Cannon said another person’s judgment and sentence “has nothing to do with his situation.”
He might call a Sublette County brand inspector to show the form and how it is filled out; Rammell said he wants to ask a brand inspector if he or she would fill out one form or four separate ones.
“(Rammell) wants to introduce evidence as to how the brand inspection law is enforced,” Cannon objected. “The question (before the jury) is not whether or not (Rammell) had a brand inspection on this day and in this case.”
Judge Corpening said, “Just to give an example for (a brand inspector as witness), cross-examination is limited to what’s testified to, nothing beyond.”
“I ought to be able to ask (the witness) if it’s common or uncommon to have five animals on one permit,” Rammell said.
Cannon told Judge Corpening the only purpose is to demonstrate the actual form. “He’s raising the issue again, this is a matter of fact, not a matter of law. He’s going to try and do anything possible to go for the ‘law’ argument.”
Judge Corpening asked Cannon about charging four counts instead of one.
“We believe it could be properly charged as four separate counts,” Cannon said. “We agree all four horses would have been on one brand inspection, but not one of them was on any brand inspection.”
Each violation carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and $750 fine.
The judge accepted Cannon’s reasoning for filing four charges.
“I don’t think the intent of the law was to throw people in jail for two years for not having a piece of paper,” Rammell said. “… It was never meant to harm people, just get their attention.”
After more discussion about jury instructions, Judge Corpening led the hearing to an end.
“I think we’ve concluded about all we can conclude today,” he said.