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Pinedale Online > News > May 2007 > Urbigkit Case: Reader Comments and Viewpoints

Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Photo by Wyoming Livestock Roundup.
Wyoming Livestock Roundup
This story was reprinted on the cover of the May 9, 2007, edition of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup,
Urbigkit Case: Reader Comments and Viewpoints
by Dawn Ballou, Editor, Pinedale Online!
May 5, 2007

The arrest of Jim Urbigkit last month simply for refusing to answer a sheriff’s deputy’s questions has raised other questions about which we, and many people we have spoken with since the incident, are very confused. Based on the comments we have received on this story, it appears this is an interesting subject of debate that is bigger than the actual incident of the arrest.

This incident has made it clear that there is a huge gap between what the public understands and believes their rights to be, and what law enforcement believes the rights of citizens to be, and are acting upon, in that “gray area” of before a charge and an arrest. Jim Urbigkit could have been any one of us. He represents the average, everyday citizen who came face to face with a misunderstanding between the general public and law enforcement about what our rights as citizens actually are.

If you are just finding this article and don't know the background incident that triggered this discussion, scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on the links in our "Related Links" section for the story about the rancher arrested, but not for shooting the bear, and what happened in court two weeks later.

Below are some of the many comments we have received so far about this case. We welcome comments and points of view to discuss and debate these issues. If you do write, we ask that you please keep your comments to the issues of the debate and not make personal attacks against either Mr. Urbigkit, or the Sheriff’s Office deputy who was just doing his job. Personal attacks do not further the debate, so we will edit those out. We will print selected comments and reserve the right to edit comments for topic relevancy. E-mail comments to: Please put "Urbigkit case" or "rancher arrest" in the e-mail subject line so we don’t miss your e-mail.

Editor's note: We have added additional comments since the original post date of this story. We will add other comments as we receive them. To be sure you are seeing the most current page, use the keyboard-mouse combination: "CTRL key-Refresh button on browser", to force the refresh of this webpage.
"With regards to the Urbigkit Case, I believe that not only has he gone way too far with his allegations as to what the officer may or may not have done correctly, he is making a mockery out of what he finds to be funny. In the event that one calls 911 to report something instead of just calling the regular sheriff’s office number, he has then instigated an officer’s response to his residence. Had he simply answered the questions of the officer, he wouldn’t have been arrested, wouldn’t have a $1000 bond, wouldn’t have his name all over the papers (unless this is what his intent was in the first place), wouldn’t have the county of Sublette in a huff over a black bear in a heard (sic) of sheep of all things.

After the incident, the Sublette County Attorney’s Office made the decision to dismiss all charges and not prosecute. He was informed of this as the article states through his attorney, yet he still demanded a public dismissal, to me this says ARROGANT, take the dismissal and be done with it. The recognition that the officer made a mistake in his arrest was apparent, however Mr. Urbigkit chose to take it to the next level and draw even more attention to himself and his family. The dismissal of criminal charges of Interference with a Peace Officer which should suffice as his actions now may impede the response and willingness of the Pinedale Sheriff’s Office if ever he should really need their assistance. I a lifelong Sublette County resident, as well as many others find this case to be a way of a sheep farmer wanting nothing more than attention drawn to him as he makes a mockery out of a mistake realized and therefore no charges filed. Take the dismissal and be done with it as the rest of the County is tired of reading and seeing his face plastered in articles." - letter received via U.S. mail (added 5/19/07)

"It has been 800 years since Magna Carta, and 200 years since our own Bill of Rights enshrined the protection against self-incrimination. Yet, law enforcement officers still refuse to accept that such a right exists. Nothing threatens to damage our civil rights more than a law enforcement community that refuses to recognize those rights.

I want to address an error in another comment, which suggests that no pre-arrest right to remain silent exists. While the links provided below suggest such a law, none of those links has anything to do with WYOMING law. Here is the law in Wyoming, based on our own Wyoming Constitution, as stated by the Wyoming Supreme Court: "In analyzing . . . the state constitutional language, we discern no rational reason to limit the protection embracing the citizen's right to silence to the post-arrest or post- Miranda situation. The constitutional right to silence exists at all times-before arrest, at arrest, and after arrest; before a Miranda warning and after it. The right is self-executing." Tortolito v. State 901 P.2d 387, 390 (Wyo.,1995).

Wyoming law enforcement officers should be trained in Wyoming law. Both Mr Urbigkit and the people of Sublette County deserve a public apology from the Sheriff . . . or his resignation." - Disgusted in Laramie. (added 5/16/07)
"If Sublette County does not allow ANYONE being questioned about ANYTHING to have a lawyer present, the county (or the State of Wyoming) is the only place in the USA where that is the case. I believe your Sheriff's Department needs lessons in Constitutionally guaranteed rights." (added 5/15/07)

"I read about the Urbigkit case in the Roundup and went online to your newspaper to read more. I am a rancher in Washakie County and am having a hard time finding the words to write. Yes, I want to ask how this could happen here in Wyoming, but we have seen this kind of conduct by Government officers in the state for some time. Examples are the Helicopter that placed four wolves on private land near Meeteetse with no regard for private land rights, the rancher in Thermopolis who cannot get a fair trial for stopping federal workers from crossing his property. I have always tried to support local law officers, but when the instructions on your newspaper website tell me to not respond personally, towards ” the Deputy was just doing his job”, I have to ask what is going on in our state?

I do not mean this to be personal. My intention is to question how such an incident could ever occur? What happened to working together, what happened that we do not even trust those who are hired to protect us?

My guess is that the Sheriffs department will sweep this incident under the rug and life will go on. No apology, no explanation, no nothing. Have other incidents like this gone on in your town? Should I avoid the speed trap of Pinedale? Would I even want to call and report a crime that I witnessed if I lived in your town? Do I need my own video camera to be running every time I talk to an officer to protect myself? I want to believe in the integrity of our local law enforcers anywhere in the state. In order to restore the trust of the locals and ranchers throughout the state, some explanation to the public is warranted (no pun intended)." - Ten Sleep, Wyoming (added 5/14/07)
"I have been following the case of Mr. Urbigkit as I read your newspaper online and am deeply upset that something like this could happen to an American citizen who was protecting his personal property. I know that all law enforcement officers understand the rights of our citizens and in this case Mr. Urbigkits rights were violated. If this would have happened in our County the deputy and the his superior would both have a lot of explaining to do and would be reprimanded for their actions. This is the kind of actions that cause citizens to lose respect for our law enforcement officers.

The deputy and his superior should both apologize personally and publicly to Mr. Urgibkit and his family for the embarrassment they have caused them.

As my wife's family on both sides have lived in Big Piney and Sublett (sic) County for over 100 years and having visited the area on many occasions and getting to meet some of the older law enforcement officers I am appalled that this would happen in a ranching area." - Rifle, Colorado (added 5/11/07)
"Don't any of your commenters read the provided links? If a person is not in police custody, however, no Miranda warning is required and anything the person says can be used at trial if the person is later charged with a crime. The rancher wasn't IN custody. He didn't have the 'right to remain silent' etc etc. And yes, the deputy could have handled this much better. And I'm sure in the future, he will. But it was actually the rancher who started the whole "I know my rights" line of reasoning. He wanted to be able to invoke his "right to remain silent", well, it looks like the deputy was simply nice enough to enable him to access those rights. (by taking him into custody)" - (added 5/10/07)
"I’m reminded of the old adage, “Love your country, but fear your government”, whether it is local, state or federal. This is not the first time that a citizens rights have been trampled by our local Sheriffs Department and I doubt that it will be the last. Respect is a two way street. If we are to respect a deputy’s authority to uphold the law, he must first respect our rights as law abiding citizens." – Long time Pinedale Resident (added 5/10/07)

"In all truthfulness I’m extremely troubled by this incident. It is clearly a case of coercion. You will never convince me that (the) Deputy... doesn’t know his Miranda Warning, and what it means when it says the "Right to remain silent", and the "Right to have an Attorney present during questioning". I mean unless it’s his first day on the job. If he can’t or doesn’t understand that a Constitutionally protected right is still a right even if no one has been arrested or is being accused of a crime then he needs to find another job. After all you can’t hardly be a "Law enforcement officer" if you don’t know the law..." – Pinedale, Sublette County, Wyoming (added 5/7/07)

"This is very familiar to me. A few years ago, I saw a big, beautiful buck deer that had been hit by a car some time earlier, floundering in the deep snow on the side of the road. It was clear that his back had been broken and he would not survive, but he would suffer for perhaps days. It was midnight on a holiday, so I knew that game and fish would be less than thrilled to get out of bed and drive an hour away to put the deer down, so I debated and put the deer down myself, immediately calling the incident in as soon as I was in cell phone range. We left the deer intact on the side of the road. Within a few days, we had the Game and Fish serving us with poaching warrants. It took several weeks but we were finally able to clear up the mess. Would I do it again? Yes, I cannot justify allowing an animal to suffer like that. I just would not have called it in. Now THAT is criminal." (added 5/6/07)

"I am concerned they have already done permanent damage to the relationship between ranchers in this county and the Sheriff’s office. They have permanently demonstrated that ranchers trying to do the right thing are doing the wrong thing. They have effectively demonstrated what ranchers should do when dealing with predator control is ‘shoot, shovel and shut-up’" – Sublette County, Wyoming

"If a cop can show up at your door any day and say you have to answer their questions or you will go to jail, that is scary." Wyoming

"Apparently this is happening all the time with DUIs in Wyoming (Driving Under the Influence). No one wants to stand up and defend them. Suddenly, now the rights of criminals has become important to me!" – Wyoming

"Please! This sounds like something from New York City. Have the deputy and sheriff apologize to the rancher."

"I do not know him, but this could happen to any one.."

"I want to donate to Jim’s legal defense fund!"

"If this Deputy's aim was to show this Rancher up and embarass him by running him through the system and how intrusive it can be…you did it!"

"I’m a big supporter of law enforcement and I’m generally willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t feel there’s any doubt in this case. Mr. Urbigkit is an upstanding citizen and was punished for doing the right thing. We need to have confidence in our law officers and not be afraid to attempt to cooperate with them…I hope, at the very least, to see an explanation and apology from the Sheriff’s Office to Mr. Urbigkit and the county."

"I suspect pride, lack of training and or experience play a part in this arrest. The thing that troubles me the most, is that the Sheriff's Department did not have a supervisor in place that could have stepped in and solved this problem and protected Urbigkit's rights. From what I have read there is no reason things could not have been worked out on Monday when everyone was at work. It should be have been apparent to anyone that Urbigkit was not a danger to himself or others and he was not a flight risk…I would hope the Sheriff's office has learned from this incident so this type of arrest does not happen again. One trait of a good person (or in this case an organization) is having the ability to realize when a mistake has been made and then take the proper action. I would hope that the Sheriff's Office publicly apologizes to Urbigkit and tells the community how it plans to train it's officers to deal with citizens in a way they would like to be dealt with."

Related Links
  • Rancher arrested, but not because he shot the bear - Pinedale Online! May 3, 2007
  • Urbigkit Case: What happened in court - Pinedale Online! May 4, 2007
  • Pinedale Online > News > May 2007 > Urbigkit Case: Reader Comments and Viewpoints

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