Three Missouri hunters who were found not guilty Friday of trespassing in Carbon County in 2021 face new charges for a similar corner-crossing incident from the year before.

Circuit Court Judge Susan Stipe issued summons April 25 to Bradly Cape, Phillip Yeomans and Zachary Smith to appear, virtually if necessary, before her on June 6 to answer to new trespass charges. According to information filed with the court, the three each face one count of violating Wyoming’s criminal trespass law or the state’s trespassing-to-hunt statute.

A six-person jury acquitted them and John Slowensky on Friday of violating the same laws during a separate incident in 2021. The hunters admitted they corner-crossed to hunt on public land without touching private land.

Last week’s trial centered on the 2021 excursion when the men hunted on BLM and Wyoming state land near the Elk Mountain Ranch owned by North Carolina resident Fred Eshelman. The new charges allege a similar set of circumstances for three of the hunters, but in 2020.

“They stated repeatedly that their intentions were to ‘corner cross’, but not to trespass.”

Affidavit of Carbon County Deputy Patrick Patterson

All four also face a separate civil suit in federal court for the 2021 incident.

Corner crossing involves stepping from one piece of public property to another at the common corner with two pieces of private property without stepping on that private land. The checkerboard pattern of land ownership found in many parts of Wyoming and the West creates numerous such common corners.

Carbon County Prosecutor Ashley Mayfield Davis argued unsuccessfully during the trial that violating the airspace above Eshelman’s ranch amounted to trespass. Jury members would not comment on their reasoning for reaching the not-guilty verdict.

The three hunters are expected to enter pleas on June 6, perhaps starting anew a series of proceedings and a trial similar to the one that the jury concluded Friday.

Survey monuments

In launching their hunting expeditions, the Missouri men said they used onX hunting maps that employ Global Positioning System technology to locate survey monuments marking the corners they crossed. By finding the survey monuments, the men avoided relying exclusively on GPS, which can have a several-foot margin of error, according to defense attorneys’ arguments.

In 2021, the four used a ladder to climb over two T-posts driven into the private land near the first corners. The posts were chained together, creating an obstacle the ladder overcame. Each post had a “No trespassing” sign and the Elk Mountain Ranch phone number.

Carbon County Circuit Court Judge Susan Stipe confers with a clerk while 58 members of a jury pool were excused from a temporary courtroom where they were being questioned for bias during the jury selection process. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./ WyoFile)

At other corners, the hunters apparently did not need a ladder to step across survey monuments without touching private land.

Deputy Carbon County Attorney Mark Nugent filed court papers setting out the circumstances leading to the new charges. The charges allege the trespass occurred between Sept. 15, 2020, and Oct. 15, 2020.

In an affidavit dated Feb. 15, 2022, Sheriff’s Deputy Patrick Patterson tells of how another deputy — Roger Hawks, who no longer works for the sheriff’s office — investigated a trespass complaint by Elk Mountain Ranch property manager Steve Grende in 2020. Grende complained the hunters had shot a bull elk.

“Mr Grende explained that the area where the three hunters had shot the elk was only accessible to the hunters by means of crossing the private land of the Elk Mountain Ranch,” the affidavit reads. Grende had “spoken to the hunters,” the affidavit states, but when Hawks and Grende went to the spot of the conversation, they found neither the elk nor the men.

After an unsuccessful search for the hunters, Grende and Hawks went to see landowner Eshelman, the affidavit states. Hawks told Eshelman he would complete an investigation and refer the case to the Carbon County Attorney’s office, which would determine if charges would be filed.

“Mr. Eshelman was unhappy with this explanation and wanted citations written, or for the hunters to be arrested,” the affidavit reads.

The next day, Oct. 3, 2020, Hawks found the hunters in their camp on BLM land near a county road.

“The hunters stated that they had been coming to Wyoming for the past few years and were aware of ‘corner crossing laws.’” the affidavit reads. “They admitted that they were crossing at the intersection of private and public lands, but expressed that they did not intend to trespass.

“They stated repeatedly that their intentions were to ‘corner cross’, but not to trespass,” the document reads.

Cape also admitted that the two common corners they crossed were marked with T-posts and “No trespassing” signs, the affidavit states. They provided Hawks with photographs of the signs and posts, the affidavit states.

“Although the hunters provided these images to law enforcement, the group of hunters nonetheless stated that their intentions were to ‘corner cross’ and not to trespass,” the affidavit reads.

Apparently neither Hawks nor any other law officer issued citations to the hunters in 2020 as the affidavit makes no mention of any.

Fresh summons

Judge Stipe signed the summons Monday, April 25 and a deputy served them to the three hunters on April 27, just before Stipe began the voir dire jury selection process in Rawlins.

According to two sources who either witnessed the serving or heard it described to the judge, the deputy handed the summons to the defendants in front of most of the 58-member jury pool while the defense attorneys, prosecutors and the judge were in a conference in a separate room.

Because of the new trespass charges and the ongoing civil case Eshelman brought against the four 2021 defendants, attorneys and hunters would not comment on the new charges for the record. One attorney did say “justice has been served” through Friday’s not-guilty verdict regarding the 2021 incident.

“[T]he six-person jury returned a fair, just, and unanimous verdict that my client, Phillip Yeomans, and his friends, Bradly Cape, John Slowensky, and Zachary Smith did not commit the crimes of criminal trespass or trespass to hunt under Wyoming law when they accessed public lands in the Checkerboard,” defense attorney Ryan Semerad wrote in a statement.

“This decision is not precedent, but it fairly reflects the good faith in which these men lawfully and conscientiously hunted public land,” the statement reads. “There is more work yet to be done for these men and to ensure public access to public lands.

“But this verdict was an essential first step to restoring access to the public domain to the public,” he wrote.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. Angus, just curious if you or anyone else has checked the records at Game and Fish to see if the Elk Mountain Ranch, owned by North Carolina resident Fred Eshelman or any of it’s principals have applied for game damage payments from the G & F Commission?

  2. How much money is this guy spending on suing the International Space Station for violating his ‘above ground’ property?
    Airlines?
    Civil Aviation that overflies on a daily basis?

    On the other hand, does he, or his ‘guides’ operate and Drones to track and monitor the movements of the various herds year round so they can identify Trophy animals and position hunters accordingly?

    Does his Drones overfly government lands without SPECIFIC WRITTEN PERMISSION on a per flight basis?

  3. The ranchers already run there cattle and sheep on public land at little cost to them why should they have the right to tie up our land for there gain,How can they have something taken away from them that they never owned in the first place.

  4. Ok, just for the record? Seems like the whole country is whipped into a frenzy. “We” can get access to more land… just find good lawyers. It sounds kinda sad to me. Ranchers over time have had value taken from them and regulations enforced which leads to land rich and most of the time cash poor, thus a need to sell their land. One value I see to their operation is leasing hunting/fishing/access rights which adds to their bottom line. If we open corner crossing access how many will once again have something taken away from them? Anyone who has lived in Wyoming very long knows that you cannot cross the corner from public to public! Which leads me to ask of OnX or whoever has come up with these “millions of acres” of landlocked corner numbers. Are these numbers vetted for do any of these lands in the total have other public access you just cannot go across this spot? Or is the criteria only that if it has public on two and private on the other two is the acreage included? Also please calculate the total number of public acres the the public has access to. When we compare the numbers, come on folks we have a bunch of land we can access. I think this is pretty cool! If I really studied the private lands and the people who steward them I believe I will find they are pretty valuable to the “public” wildlife that uses them. Yes sometimes a few get a little better hunting and fishing than the rest of us but I’m ok with that. I want to thank them for their stewardship and their sweat equity to maintain fences and landscapes. Good god its not cheap. I will support any and all access initiatives to open more public lands and the organizations that are currently working to provide us with more access, but for petes sake keep the lawyers out of it and quit trying to use the system. Again, thank you BLM, US Forest Service, States, Refuges and anyone and everyone who has been willing to grant access to ALL the land I have been priveledged to use thus far in my pursuit of outdoor recreation.

    1. I just don’t think you understand. It is Public ground paid for by tax payers, It does not belong to the Ranchers only or those who can afford to hunt on ground they already own.

  5. You know, it the old days, kangaroo court procedure was using done in the backroom by the prosecutor, judge, law dog and the rich puppet master. They’d all secretly meet to conspire up formalize the verdict that they wanted.

    Now, they do it right out in the open and in your faces. Issuing Summons to the hunters in front of a jury pool? I had to read that twice to determine that, yes, they did just that. When the defense vehemently objected, the judge wouldn’t hear of it and ordered the trial to commence. So, what you have here is a not so secret corrupt judicial system in Carbon County and the instigators are not trying to hide it, not one shred. Yet, somehow, out of the 58 tainted and tampered with jury prospects, the six chosen didn’t take long to find the Hunters NOT guilty. There should be a new trial, yes, but the Carbon County “defenders of the law” need to be shackled and led into a courtroom. If they’re not, then these culprits will have gotten away with it and will certainly do it again. Obviously no such thing as a fair trial in South-Central Wyoming

  6. At this point it appears that the County Attorney may be a witness in the matter as to the possible impropriety of having directed citations be issued to the Defendants in front of the prospective jurors. If that is true (and I have no information on the subject other than what is written here), such conduct would violate Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(d) which prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. If the law enforcement officers did this without her direction, she may skirt this ethics issue, but the officers should be held accountable in some way. One possible sanction would be for the Court to dismiss the citations, as they were issued and served in a fashion to subvert the interests of justice by prejudicing the jury panel.

    Another potentially applicable ethics violation would be Rule 3.8(a) which requires a prosecutor to refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause. In my mind, this issue of lack of probable cause has loomed large from the outset. If the hunters have repeatedly asserted they were not trespassing, but corner crossing, and there seems no dispute about that –they knew where the corner was and intended to AVOID trespassing by corner crossing– then there is no probable cause basis for trespass element that each defendant KNEW his conduct was an UNAUTHORIZED trespass. To be valid, the citation requires probable cause to believe that the hunters knew what they were doing was unauthorized. The very prosecution argument that the hunters “wanted to test the law,” is itself an admission by the prosecution that the hunters did not believe that the prohibition applies to them–i.e., they did not KNOW their conduct was unauthorized; they believed otherwise. As such, the knowledge element fails and they cannot be guilty of trespass.

    This could be remedied by the Circuit Court Judge dismissing the citations for lack of probable cause, now that the facts are clear that the hunters believed they were authorized to cross the corner without stepping on the privately held land. This case was ripe for such dismissal long ago, but after the first case, it is crushingly obvious that the case should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for a defect in the institution of the proceedings. There appears no probable cause to support the prosecution –let alone proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the hunters knew their actions were unauthorized. Recall, the hunters built and used special corner crossing ladders TO AVOID TRESPASSING. What could be more determinative than that on the issue of intent.

    Even if a prosecutor believed, in the face of all the available evidence, that these hunters were guilty of trespass, surely the cost, inconvenience, and the stress of a trial they have suffered is far more punishment than any such offense would ever warrant. Enough already. Not only that, the jury has spoken. To my mind, the continuation of this debacle reflects exceedingly poor prosecutorial judgment. If some of the allegations written here are true, the consequences for the prosecutor could turn out to be far worse than the public ridicule found in these comments.

  7. I was told these 2020 Trespass charges were dismissed on Wednesday afternoon. Has that come out, any truth to that?

  8. Someone needs to start a Petition to change this law. Common sense would be an 8ft easement at these corners to allow use of the public lands as intended.

  9. Anyone wanna go into business coloring the air with me . How in fact do you determine who’s air space is who’s . Guess we will all need air tanks on our backs because people are going to sue you if you breath . Why does this ranch care so much about this property. Because they hunt it and make money from it that in its self is against the law.

  10. This is ridiculous on the part of Eshelman. What injury, exactly, has he or the supposed “air right” suffer?

    1. As I read it, the injury is the loss of exclusive use of that public property.

  11. If Ms. Mayfield pursues this, shouldn’t she be charged with jury tampering? I would request a complete new jury pool if I were a defense attorney. Or at least a change of venue. And since the Sheriff went along with this, he should be voted out too.

  12. Unless the circumstances of the 2020 case are materially different from the 2021 case, this is a huge waste of tax payer money and is little more than legalized harassment. I would love to see Angus Thuermer ask the county attorney why this isn’t just harassment on the same circumstance they were already found not guilty of? To me, this is an effort to allow Mr. Eshelman to determine prosecutorial policy in Carbon County, and little more than a veiled attempt to punish the defendants for being found not guilty.

  13. The principal argument for the prosecution is that the private land owners own the air space above there land. How high do they own the air space?? How many air planes fly over Elk mountain every day?? United Airline’s get teady to go to court.

  14. To the prosecutor
    If A+B=Not Guilty
    Would it not also suggest A+C=Not Guilty. It amazes me how this prosecutor is spending so much time, effort and money to prosecute two steps over a imaginary line!

  15. The only crime committed here was when the state representatives caved to the rich and passed the “corner crossing” law. Rich landowners have utilized the law to “block” legal access to public land around their property. Their only interest is to use the public land as their own. I’m a retired Captain with Game and Fish and we have similar situations in Georgia.

  16. What is wrong with Carbon County? It’s time for the voters to throw out this idiot of a County Attorney. He has no concept of justice and is a tool of wealthy out of state parties.

  17. Sounds like a dual case of prosecutorial misconduct for having the summons served in front of the jury, which the judge should refer ethics charges, and prosecutorial harassment. The prosecutor will fall flat.

  18. This case sounds like the Old World, where the rich and royalty owned and ruled everything. This is America. Private land ownership is an American principle, put so is public land ownership. How about we reverse the roles and block rich, private landowners access to their lands? Better yet, how about revising Wyoming laws to a sensible state that supports public access to properties for which the public pays.

  19. I told you all. This isn’t done yet. And so the rich land owner continues to pull strings in DA office. It is now about fear and intimidation so other hunters think twice.

  20. I’ve confirmed that yes, in a moment preceding the trial (first one), when the 6 jurors are selected amongst the 58 candidates, Carbon County Attorney Ember Mayfield directed the Sheriff’s Department to issue 2020 trespassing citations IN FRONT OF THE 58 potential jurors! This was a purposeful and blatant dirt bag move by the prosecution to immediately taint the jury, having the Defendants tickets right in front of the jury pool. When the defense legal team heard of this, they immediately cried foul and called for a mistrial. NOPE, Judge Susan Stipe ordered the trial to commence. Not only were the 6 jurors on this trial dirtied, the 52 remaining candidates could quite possibly be called to serve on the jury for the upcoming 2020 citations. Ember Mayfield and Company tainted and prejudiced 2 juries in one swipe. Now, it’s pretty much out in the open that Mayfield is in the pocket of fat cat Fred Eshelman BUT….judge Stipe? Is she dirty, too? What kind of Kangaroo Court are you people down in Carbon County running? Are you folks nothing but a motley bunch of dirty and corrupt little backwater village crooks and cheats? The Missouri defendants, or anybody twisted up with the corrupt law in that County will never get a fair trial. I would hope that the Fed’s look real hard at the dirty dealing in your courthouse

    1. I believe a Judge signs a summons to appear, which is given to Law Enforcement -in this case Carbon County Sheriffs Department.

      The Deputy who was assigned the summons delivered in person to the hunters.

      I don’t believe the County Attorney has any influence, on when or where a summons to appear will be delivered.

  21. In the legal profession, on a scale of 1 to 10, county attorneys fit in right about at 1.2. These municipal positions are pretty much the bottom of the barrel and off guaranteed paychecks and little if any repercussions for going off kilter, such as this DA in Carbon County. The good attorneys are in the private sector, much more money to be made and much for accountable for rogue activities. Mess up and no paycheck. So, here we go Carbon County, you’ve elected a low achiever who’s obviously sold you all out to the robber baron over there on Elk Mountain. Sure, you can push this person out by electing another, but again, scraping the bottom of the barrel is your only choice. this current DA is running wild and it looks like nobody, including the Co. Commissioners or the taxpayers are going to do anything and she knows it. But wait, your saviors are actually in another state, the “Missouri 4”. Not only will they embarrass and defeat your out of whack DA they’re also going to embarrass the rest of you stumpwater Carbon County people. Meanwhile, I think you’ve shown the world that Rawlins, Saratoga and the rest of the county is best bypassed.

  22. Bet they don’t mind the elk “crossing the ranch”. Elk managed through license and hunting sales. I guess it’s fine to block of a piece of public land, locking access to public resources so they can , essentially steal it from those of us that pay for it. I hope everyone in the county pays close attention to this. These out of state interests are not fellow outdoorsmen and their employees are not our friends and neighbors. This is the rich king forcing you out of the royal hunting area. Think carefully before you sell your grandpa’s ranch and range land. You might be selling it for “top dollar” but your kids and grandkids will never touch it again.

  23. “Piracies and Felonies of the high Seas” is a federal issue and is stated as such in the Article I of the Constitution for the United States of America. Also it’s Biblical (Day 1 of Creation) that God parted the waters and created the “high Seas”, and on Day 6 “dominion” was given to ALL living, breathing male/female created in God’s “quantum being”. God is also known as ATOM (the ONE within ALL creation). “Principalities, rulers, entities, corporations governments of this world” playing God were NOT given dominion over the “quantum creation”…of our Prime Creator. No false God dominates ATOM zipping around constantly or pressed into a plastic cube.

  24. What is so amazing is that the state of Wyoming thinks it is ok for Rich out of state landowners to purchase private land around an entire mountain range that is public , and keep all of us Wyoming natives from hunting the public land we grew up on. ???

  25. What a crock of bs. It’s soooo great to be a rich guy and own the World. Lmao

  26. “According to information filed with the court, the three each face one count of violating Wyoming’s criminal trespass law or the state’s trespassing-to-hunt statute.” How can these hunters be charged and not say exactly what they are being charged for?

  27. during the juror selection in the first trial, prosecutor ember mayfield orders the carbon county sheriff’s dept to issue trespass ticket summons to 3 of the 4 missouri hunter IN FRONT OF THE prospective jury pool? A majority of the 58 candidates witnessed first hand this in your face and highly prejudicial maneuver by the prosecutor? this blatant move not only would taint the jurors of first trial, but also this second bogus kangaroo court. the judge is ok with this? the citizens of carbon county are ok with this? the entire legal system of wyoming is ok with this? never before have I seen such prosecutorial misconduct. i guess the people’s republic of carbon county is going to sell out to the rich robber barons and let ember mayfield be unaccountable to anybody, other than eshelman. carbon county, wyoming, a true stain on the rest of the state.

    1. How do you know the DA ordered the Deputy to serve the summons at that specific time ?

  28. The private property owners want to steal the public rights to blm and forest and need charged form stoping the hunters from hunting on public and then the hunters can sue the rancher also in wyo the ranchers fence in public and post it

    1. True fact. Nice to see someone call they’re bluff. Been controlling public land for too long. Kind of nice to have your private game farm huh rich guy?

  29. So you are finding new ways to land lock public lands. This state is an absolute joke.

  30. Disgusting. Is anyone from Carbon County complaining to their elected officials about this travesty? Too bad it takes a few brave nonresidents to try to clean up this mess. Ashley/Mayfield doesn’t seem too concerned about what any of us think. That’s pretty obvious. Unfortunately, she will land on her feet to further practice “law” as she sees it, even after getting voted out. Carbon County just can’t seem to get it right on election day in regards to county attorney.

  31. this is not a trial, it’s a coronation of a king, high a top elk mtn. carbon co’s attorney has sold both herself and her constituents out to the multi millionaire fred eshelman. no need for smoky back room deals, it was done right out in the open and in the faces of the carbon co taxpayers. a bloodless coup. as for the rest of us on the outside looking in, it might be wise to avoid carbon co, lest you get caught breathing the king’s air and have his court jester fine and imprison you. carbon co has always been looked up like a potential backwater hick town kind of place. the citizenry rolling over to eshelman and his shill-in-place seals up their dark place in history of injustice and selling out

  32. Rich people not only ‘print’ money, they also get rich (and stay rich) by leveraging situations so that they don’t have to spend their own money. Case in point: these BS trespassing trials. With Fred Eshelman’s Shill Attorney in place (Mayfield Davis),has absolutely $00.00 invested in this mockery. It’s all being funded by the taxpayers of Carbon County. In Freddie’s war against the public, he’s leveraged an elected County employee and her entire department to do his dirty work. All of this occurring in YOUR county Courthouse. Again, Carbon County, Eshelman has successfully leveraged YOUR taxed money and has leveraged YOUR County Attorney to basically stick it to you – ALL OF YOU. Don’t ya just love it when you shoot yourself in the foot? If you, the residents of Carbon County allow this charade to go on, then it’s all on YOU. It’s take to either take the trash out and start anew, or be complicit to this garbage. Maybe instead of paying your taxes to the county, start making those check out to your new “King”. Your choice.

  33. I don’t know the elements of the second complaint but it sure feels like sour grapes and a rush to prove something to somebody. Let’s not forget that District Attorneys are elected and fat cat rich guys know how to line pockets and contribute to campaigns. Ask yourself could that be a factor here?

    Bringing politics into this may rub some folks the wrong way but the guy who owns this ranch is loaded. I’ll bet that NC Fat Cat lines the pockets of Trump, and any other elected politician who will do his bidding. We need more common sense politicians like Cheney who call out the BS we are seeing all too often.

    1. Cheney has never called out any govorment BS in her life span. Never! Has made a living riding on fathers coattails. Has done nothing to protect any citizen. In fact once she not re elected likely runs as Democrat in Virginia her true home state

  34. Interesting, so now the airspace argument is not being used. It appears they admitted to crossing the corner.

  35. Ok…”the hunters were handed their 2020 trespassing summons IN FRONT OF most of the 58 MEMBERS of the JURY POOL”…can all of you WyoFile readers say “Prosecutorial Misconduct”??? Wow, unbelievable, attempting to taint the potential Jurors right out in the open, for the whole frikkin’ world to see. Carbon County, you have a major problem – it’s your elected County Attorney. Brazen, bold…stupid. This woman is going to drag the reputation of Carbon County down to the sludge. Concerned citizens Carbon County, if you’re not “in” on this banana republic proceeding, should immediately contact the County Commissioners with your concerns. The rest of us need to flood the phone lines of the Wyoming State Bar, Disciplinary Board. I have voiced my concerns to them and they are very interested in this case… and WATCHING closely. Ashley Mayfield is turning Carbon County into a 3rd world country that only caters to it’s oligarchs such as Fred Eshelman. Disgusting

  36. Look like a case of impeading access to public land. Also hunter harassment.I believe Ashley Mayfield knows that her selling out the people of Wyoming has killed her chances of reelection. Therefore has no need to hide her bias towards the hunters as she in in the pocket of the Five Iron. Perhaps she has a position in the big pharma industry

  37. Etchelman uses state land as his very own ! Builds roads fences and then drives on these roads ! Where is the Law on this ?
    He has Millions and will never stop !!

  38. I think as a hunter and long time resident of Wyoming corner crossing is fair it is time to let big land owners know that we the people have the rite to use OUR LAND Roger Devore

  39. I find that all the land owner is doing is ensuring his paid hunters have sole access. It’s just like a river , you can float it but not touch bottom, you don’t own the air above the land, just as you don’t own the water .

  40. If Ranchers are going to continue to block public access then the Wyoming Game and fish need to step it up, close all landlocked BLM down to hunting and don’t compensate for wildlife damages!

  41. Wouldn’t the fifth amendment of the constitution prohibit another trial on the same charges when they were acquitted by their peers? I understand one occurred in 2021 and one in 2020, but the evidence on the untried 2020 is older and even less strong and the charges are the same.

    Carbon county has a real gem with Mrs. Ashley Davis. This charge is harassment and a waste of government resources.

  42. Tell me this wasn’t fully planned out by the corrupt Prosecuting attorney of Carbon county to have sway and influence on that jury pool and the Judge not calling a mistrial for this. Something sure smells fishy and rotten in Carbon county. It might be time for the voters and Governor to clean out that sty of a court if it’s even fit to be called such.

  43. This seems to me like the western movie where the rich cattle baron owns the town and the officials and they try to tell the townspeople how to live. I guess this prosecutor wants to keep playing games until the townspeople put her out to pasture!

  44. I hope mayfield-davis is 0-2 after this one and is voted out. She can then cater to eshelman all she likes while in private practice.

    What a joke