Defense attorney Katye Ames gets a hug from Brad Cape after his acquittal on trespass charges after corner crossing at Elk Mountain Ranch in 2021. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Carbon County Prosecutor Ashley Mayfield Davis has asked Carbon County Circuit Court Judge Susan Stipe to dismiss a second round of indictments against three Missouri hunters whom a jury found not guilty of corner crossing.

Mayfield Davis filed the motion to dismiss criminal trespass and trespassing to hunt charges against Brad Cape, Zach Smith and Phillip Yeomans on May 4, according to court documents. The judge has not yet signed an order dismissing the new charges as requested, but is expected to next week, a clerk at the court in Rawlins said.

A Carbon County jury found the three men, plus companion John Slowensky, not guilty on April 29 of a 2021 corner crossing incident at the Elk Mountain Ranch owned by North Carolina resident Fred Eshelman. Just before the trial started, Mayfield Davis served three of the men with a summons to appear at an arraignment on similar charges, but relating to a hunting excursion in 2020.

“The essential facts in this matter were considered by the Jury.”

Carbon County Prosecutor Ashley Mayfield Davis

Mayfield Davis wants that arraignment canceled and the 2020 charges dismissed.

“The essential facts in this matter were considered by the Jury,” the motion reads. “Therefore, rather than submitting the same evidence to another Jury, the State believes a dismissal would be in the interest of judicial economy and would ask the Court to dismiss the Information [charges] without prejudice.”

Without prejudice means the case could be filed again.

Corner crossing is the act of stepping from one piece of public property to another at the common of two private pieces, all arranged in a checkerboard pattern. The hunters, in both 2020 and 2021 instances, said they never touched Eshelman’s private land when they corner crossed during the two hunting seasons.

Their trial for the 2021 incident lasted three days. A three-woman, three-man jury found them not guilty of criminal trespass — and an alternate charge of trespassing-to-hunt — in fewer than two hours. The defendants did not testify.

Timeline

In her motion, Mayfield Davis laid out a timeline for the second round of charges — those for the 2020 incident she now wants dismissed.

The prosecutor’s office first alleged the 2020 trespass on April 13, 2022, before the trial on the 2021 incident began, the motion says. The office filed those charges in response to the hunters’ request to dismiss their 2021 case.

The information from 2020 corner crossing was to be used, and was used, in the trial for the 2021 incident, the motion says.

Just before jury selection began in last month’s trial, a Carbon County Sheriff’s Office deputy served three of the men with summons for new charges. It asked them to appear at a June 6 arraignment in Rawlins.

Mayfield Davis’ latest motion asks that the judge vacate that scheduled arraignment.

The men killed one elk in 2020 and two elk and a deer in 2021, court documents state. Eshelman’s Iron Bar Holdings owns the Elk Mountain Ranch that stretches across more than 20,000 acres of Carbon County’s Elk Mountain.

Across the West, some 8.3 million acres of public land are “landlocked” by any definition that corner crossing is illegal. A separate civil case, brought by Eshelman, is being considered in federal court where federal public land access laws could come into play.

The checkerboard pattern of land ownership — a construct of the railroad building era — makes accessing public BLM and Wyoming School Trust land difficult without trespassing or corner crossing. The men used a Global Positioning Satellite map app to locate surveyed section-corner monuments before they corner crossed, testimony and evidence showed.

They documented each monument and crossing point digitally, according to court documents and testimony. In 2021, they used a fence ladder to climb over two T-posts — driven in the two separate Elk Mountain Ranch sections and chained together — to go from one BLM section to another without setting foot on private land.

Mayfield Davis argued that passing through the airspace above Eshelman’s property constituted trespass.

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. David, the landowners could not charge thousands of dollars per square inch. This would be considered a taking by the govt & compensation is theorectically FMV tho w small landowners they always always seem to try to get away with much less. All that is needed here at the corner is a 12 in square which should fit a person’s foot. The landowner’s share is 1/2 of a sq foot – 72 as inches. They need to prove value. Let’s see might that be one mouthful of grass if it even had grass. Of course landowners like Eshlemann can contest value for years but I believe the taking is done promptly even if the valuation fight continues for years.

    Or the govt could build a marking monument for corners that also functioned as a stile.

  2. The problem here is that Ms. Davis asked the judge to dismiss the charges “without prejudice.” So this could be nothing more than a slight of hand, as she can recharge them any time she wants. I hope the judge sees this as just more opportunity to harass these hunters in the future, and dismisses the charges “with prejudice,” thereby putting an end to this sham prosecution. The jury has pointed out that these hunters are guilty of nothing more than legally accessing public land. Now that we have established that fact in a court of law, why aren’t the ranch employee’s being investigated for hunter harassment? Wyoming law is very clear that harassment of hunters is illegal. See Wyoming statutes 23-3-405. Ms. Davis needs to investigate the harassment claims and charge the ranch employee’s if there is probable cause. If she fails to do so, then she is setting a standard that hunter harassment will be allowed if a certain “protected class” is doing the harassing.

  3. No doubt, Larry, certainly Eshelman has that whacked out prosecutor in his pocket so it’s still anything goes. Civilly, ole’ Fred will keep throwing money on the fire and I imagine he’ll also purchase the legislature who’ll come up with some stupid new, but probably unconstitutional trespass laws. On a side note, I still cannot believe that the judge allowed the jury swaying and tampering by prosecutor, instead of correctly declaring a mis-trial and having the prosecutor arrested

  4. VIVA THE MISSOURI 4!!! Oh the silliness they had to tolerate there in Rawlins. Lego toys in the court room — re-ticketing defendants in front of a jury pool — jury takes less then 2 hr to give a non guilty verdict (though I bet they spent most of their time rolling on the floor laughing at the prosecution) — a county prosecutor with an unhid able in your face bias for the king of Elk Mtn…the list goes on and on. The trial scene on the last episode of Seinfeld had more reality then this banana republic hanging in Carbon County. If the residents don’t run that sellout prosecutor out of town en mass, there is definitely something wrong with those people

  5. The situation could be easily solved by the government purchasing two small triangular tracts at each corner where public tracts adjoin. The private owners locking people out of public land so they can keep it for themselves are no different than the little pellets you’ll find if you follow chickens around.

    1. Good idea. The only problem is that the Landowners would probably charge thousands of dollars per square inch for the property. A better idea might be making public access a condition of their grazing leases with appropriate adjustments in the fees themselves.

  6. Before anyone starts dancing, please note that these charges were dropped “without prejudice” meaning that this loco prosecutor, on a whim, can refile at any time. Quite possibly this move is nothing but a deflection from the highly egregious and unethical stunt of having 3 out of the 4 hunters ticketed by the sheriff for the alleged 2020 trespass incident RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE JURY POOL. Wow, what a dirt bag move, trying to sway the 6 jurors that would ultimately be selected and also tainting the remaining jury pool, many of whom would of been candidates for the 2020 trespassing trial. This is 3rd world, Banana Republic stuff, folks! Not only should an ethics complaint be filed against this county attorney, the sheriff should be looked at, also. The defense team protested loudly to judge Stipe, who ignored the situation and wouldn’t call for a mis-trial, nor admonish this Mayfield/Davis character. Trial went on and luckily, the 6 jurors were not swayed in this obvious Kangaroo court. This whole scenario has been a blatant and purposeful miscarriage of justice and every little move this county attorney Mayfield/Davis has ever made, starting from the she was licensed to practice law, should be picked through with a fine toothed comb. Corruption is alive and well in Carbon county and who’ll be next in line to get railroaded there? Could be me, could be YOU. Thank goodness Wyo File was there, otherwise, who knows, these unscrupulous players and their jury tampering might of gotten away with it.

    1. Jeff, we’d hope but, the dropping of charges was done “without prejudice” meaning, this loco prosecutor could refile at any time , any day. Personally, I think this move was a red herring to deflect from the prosecutorial misconduct of ordering the deputies to issue summons to the defendants right smack in front of 58 members of the jury pool. THIS faux paux will not going away for County Attorney Ember Mayfield.

  7. Dropping the charges does not negate the fact that Prosecutor Mayfield purposely in front of the Jury pool, ordered the Sheriff’s Dept. to issue these 3 men citations for the alleged 2020 incident. This action was a blatant attempt at swaying the potential jurors perception of these hunters. Cuba, Nicaragua, Carbon County, name your banana republic. This intentional tainting and tampering issue will not away for Mayfield

    1. Mitch. I agree with everything you say. Unless jurors/potential jurors would protest to state and bar assc. Nothing will be done. But good people made the right choice. Now hopefully the civil trial comes out right also and the “King” of the county loses big time. But don’t kid your self he is scheming how to shut off all access.