Jury finds Rammell guilty
Sublette County – Almost two years after being pulled over and cited by a deputy for not having proper brand inspections for four horses and a colt, Rock Springs Veterinarian Rex F. Rammell was found guilty May 26 in a one-day Circuit Court trial presided over by Third Circuit Court Judge Gregory Corpening.
Later, Rammell said he will appeal to Ninth District Court, where months ago he filed a civil petition asking Judge Marv Tyler to rule on the constitutionality of Wyoming Statute 11-21-103(a), which authorizes an officer to stop anyone hauling livestock to check for current brand inspections.
The six-person jury returned the verdicts after about 40 minutes of deliberation, with the trial taking place in the larger Ninth District Courtroom. Rammell sought a jury trial on the misdemeanors from June 26, 2019 – the first in Sublette County since the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted in-person attendance at court hearings.
Rammell’s arguments, limited by previous rulings, brought a handful of objections from Sublette County Deputy Attorney Stan Cannon, most sustained by the judge as Rammell questioned Deputy Ty Huffman, who performed the traffic stop.
During those sidebars, the jury heard “white noise” static as the three talked at the bench.
Rammell represented himself; Cannon prosecuted the case. Each made opening and closing statements with very different perspectives on the Wyoming law and circumstances.
The only other witness was Wyoming Brand Inspector Mike Vickrey, who was asked to explain the basics of brand inspection and livestock forms used.
Rammell argued Deputy Huffman couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt the horses themselves came from Rock Springs into Sublette County.
Cannon used the deputy’s video and testimony to prove the charges’ basic elements. Rammell argued unsuccessfully that Cannon stated he was not using the video at trial, so he had not studied it.
Judge Corpening considered the arguments from both Cannon and Rammell before imposing four sentences.
The judge asked Cannon if Rammell had any relevant criminal history.
“The defendant has a pretty clean record,” he said. Although he noted, “When I think of the hours my office has had to go through for a ticket, I would ask for the maximum.”
He asked the judge to impose four maximum sentences of six months in jail with all but four days suspended – one for each horse. Cannon also requested Rammell pay the maximum $750 fines on each horse, or $3,000.
“One of the issues I’ve had in this case is the defendant believes he doesn’t need a brand inspection,” Cannon said. “I don’t know if he ever got a brand inspection on these horses.”
He asked that Rammell receive four consecutive six-month terms of unsupervised probation – two years total – and to not violate the brand inspection law or any other law.
Judge Corpening told Rammell he had the right to make a statement if he wished.
Rammell pointed to trial elements he felt were unfair or incomplete, including a statement from Deputy Huffman admitting, “he hadn’t stopped to check many people,” at the time.
“There are people all over this county who don’t get brand inspections,” Rammell said. “I’m not the only one who believes this law is unconstitutional.”
He referred to another brand inspection case where a Farson woman was cited for bringing at least 30 calves to her property in Sublette County, which was reduced to one charge and one fine.
Rammell shared it was the Sublette County Attorney’s Office which “took the case a lot farther than it needed to go,” for almost two years.
On Dec. 10, 2019, Sublette County Magistrate Clay Kainer ruled in favor of Rammell’s evidence motion to not allow the deputy’s report, in effect leaving no case to prosecute. This led county law enforcement to curtail livestock checks and angered some local ranch families who support the stops.
“I won this case originally and Judge Curt Haws certified and ratified it,” Rammell said.
However, the county attorney’s office appealed Kainer’s ruling, arguing he was not properly appointed at the time. Another district judge ruled Kainer’s order withdrawn and the case remanded to Circuit Court for a different legal analysis. At this time, Judge Haws transferred the case to Judge Corpening.
Rammell has represented himself at every court hearing and in every filed document.
“Cannon talks about these hours – he didn’t have to appeal this,” Rammell said. “He’s gone beyond what he needed to do to settle this case. If it costs someone a bunch of work – that’s their job.”
Further, Rammell said, if he knew Cannon was introducing the 2019 video, he would have proceeded differently.
“I don’t always travel without brand inspections,” Rammell said. “I’ve got a stack of brand inspections; he wants me to be on probation for three years? I bet everyone here has done this.”
Rammell said the drawn-out case dragged his name and reputation through the mud and cost him time, money and lost business.
“I have paid a big price already. I know you’re a fair judge,” he said. “I mean, four days in jail for not getting a brand inspection? I rest.”
Judge Corpening said the jury determined the violations were willful, but he did not feel jail time was important.
He sentenced Rammell to 30 days in jail for each count, to run at the same time, then suspended them. He ordered four rounds of six months unsupervised probation, also concurrent, and fines and fees of $1,255.
Payment would be suspended pending Rammell’s anticipated Ninth District Court appeal of the verdict, the judge added, which he should file within 30 days. The judge then ended the hearing.
Outside in front of the courthouse, Rammell and Cannon, both angry, faced off on the sidewalk. Both walked away, but Rammell said he plans further court action, including the appeal. Those could include a federal-court lawsuit “for all the things they’ve done to me” and a complaint about Cannon to the Wyoming State Bar.
Rammell’s biggest goal is still to overturn the Wyoming brand inspection law as unconstitutional.
“I think if ranchers really understood what the law was, they’d change their tune,” Rammell said. “They think it’s only on out-of-county vehicles. Under this law, if they run a calf or a horse up the road, they need a brand inspection.”
Joy Ufford is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.