The Farmer’s Field
By Ron Rabou
Around this time two years ago, the Wyoming Supreme Court issued a public censure of a Cheyenne attorney who was the lead prosecutor in a case against an Albin farm owner, her son and two contractors who were present when Director or Central Intelligence (DCI) agents stormed a farm northeast of Albin.
This attorney and the Laramie County District Attorney’s Office claimed these individuals were conspiring to grow, possess and distribute marijuana. Despite overwhelming evidence disproving the claim, they refused to recognize the crop as hemp.
In its findings, the Supreme Court confirmed, “In the course of testifying at a preliminary hearing, the law enforcement officer upon whose investigation the charges were brought, testified falsely with respect to material aspects of the case. Singleton – the prosecuting attorney – knew the testimony was false, but failed to bring the falsity of such testimony to the court’s attention.”
Fortunately, a Laramie County judge threw the case out upon conclusion of the preliminary hearing. In the end, it was ludicrous to believe the crop was marijuana when multiple tests during the growing season indicated the crop was well within legal limits of THC – the psychoactive component of marijuana – and it was proven genetically to be hemp.
There was no conspiracy, just an attempt by a farm owner to learn if some other legitimate crop could be grown on the dry plains.
Despite the truth, four people were unjustifiably charged with three felony counts each and were left with massive legal bills, emotional trauma and false charges which will follow them the rest of their lives.
In addition to an immense waste of taxpayer dollars, the collateral damage was unspeakable. Inside the home on the property, two children were doing homework when DCI agents stormed the home with body armor and drawn weapons. Armed agents held them for hours and denied them communication with their parents.
Had the Laramie County judge not seen through the smoke and mirrors, it is absolutely frightening to think of the fate of these individuals and their families.
Not only would all four have likely gone to prison, but we, as the public, would have never known the falsity committed by people we trust to do the right thing – those who are engaged in law enforcement and those who work for the district attorney’s office, whose leader was elected to represent the public’s best interest.
What’s more disturbing to me, however, is a neighbor and longtime “friend” of the lady being accused made the claim and contacted law enforcement without ever directly inquiring or visiting with her first. Instead, malicious accusations were made to boost a completely irrational and inexcusable narrative.
In a small community where every person plays a valuable role in its survival and prosperity, we must ask ourselves, “Why?”
Why would someone do this, especially when we should all be trying to edify, support and encourage those we live around and claim to know?
Good neighbors should not and do not conspire to undermine one another. Our words and our actions have meaning and consequences and should be exercised with a great deal of purposeful thought.
Prior to this case’s resolution, we all watched looters on the news burn and destroy businesses owned by people of all races, religions and political beliefs. While I watched, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between that and what I sometimes see in my own community.
Though it is on a less-obvious level, neighbors often turn against each other. Some act as spoiled children when they don’t get their own way, many start rumors or make accusations that aren’t true, while others respond with intimidating tactics mirroring a schoolyard bully.
Though their process may be different, their end goal is the same – to attempt to harm or destroy the very people they live around.
But is this the type of behavior we should be modeling to our children or deem acceptable in a small community? There’s no doubt we all make mistakes, and we aren’t always going to agree on everything.
But what we can and should agree on is, in the end, we are all neighbors and part of a community boasting numerous positive attributes. We should embrace the fact differing opinions, personalities and interests are necessary to help bring success to a community.
I testified at the preliminary hearing on behalf of the farm owner because she asked me to. When people reach out to you and ask for help, you stand with them and do the right thing. You support them. This is what good neighbors do.
Doing the right thing is what builds better relationships, stronger communities and ultimately, helps make this world a better place. In times like these, it’s exactly what we need.
As a member of Rotary for over 10 years, I am reminded at each meeting about the importance of my words and actions. We all need the same reminder.
The next time someone begins to tell you what they heard about someone else or you feel the need to place judgment upon or lash out at someone for what you think they did, remember the Rotary Four Way Test: 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Is it beneficial to all concerned?
If the answer isn’t “yes” to all four questions, then the conversation you are having offers no positive value whatsoever. If you find the subject matter to be so very important, your first conversation should always be directly with the person who it involves, and it should be done respectfully.
In the case of the Albin hemp farmer, one conversation with her would have changed the course of everything.
Our community is what we make it. This shouldn’t be a place where it’s “us against them.” It should be a place where people want to live and where they should feel supported and welcomed. It’s up to each one of us to contribute to making this happen.