Thirteen men and women, all wearing orange jumpsuits from the Park County jail, lined the front row of the courtroom and spilled into the general seating area. All — including six Powell residents — face charges of delivering drugs. The …
First grand jury in Park County history13 arraigned on drug chargesIndictments handed down by a rare Park County grand jury packed the District Courtroom in Cody last week.“This will be a mass of arraignments,” said District Court Judge Steven Cranfill at the beginning of Friday's proceedings.
Thirteen men and women, all wearing orange jumpsuits from the Park County jail, lined the front row of the courtroom and spilled into the general seating area. All — including six Powell residents — face charges of delivering drugs. The substances allegedly involved range from marijuana to cocaine and LSD.
On Friday, the 13 individuals each entered pleas of not guilty to a total of 26 separate felonies.
The drug deliveries are alleged to have taken place between the fall of 2007 and last January.
Those indictments came from a grand jury convened April 30 and May 1 in Cody. Grand jury proceedings take place behind closed doors, where a 17-member body listens to a prosecutor's case and determines if there is enough evidence for a suspect to be tried for a crime. While standard for federal criminal proceedings, grand juries are rare at the county level. Clerk of District Court Joyce Boyer said she could not find another recorded instance of a grand jury in Park County's history.
Indictments, which are criminal charges, may be kept under seal until the defendant is in custody. Warrants had been issued for the suspects' arrest on May 1, but they were not served and made public until late last week.
In court on Friday, prosecutor Jonathan Davis said a number of the cases stem from a federal wiretap on Ryan Godard, formerly of Cody.
Godard, 24, is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for drug trafficking. Federal prosecutors said he had been distributing drugs along a route from Cody and Bozeman, Mont., to Oregon and Arizona. Last September, a federal judge found Godard guilty of organizing cocaine distribution, carrying a firearm while trafficking, and distributing cocaine.
Davis said the Wyoming wiretap on Godard ended in April 2008.
Several of the Park County cases and charges appear unrelated to the wiretap, involving allegations that took place after the wiretap had ended.
Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric declined to comment on the relation between the cases.
Those who appeared in court on Friday were:
• William O. Haire, 25, of Powell, indicted on four counts of delivering cocaine, one count of delivering marijuana, and a misdemeanor count of possession of hashish.
• Misty Andrews, 22, Cody, charged with two counts of delivering cocaine.
• Jason Gimmeson, 33, Powell, charged with delivering cocaine.
• Tabitha Armstrong, 24, Powell, charged with two counts of delivering cocaine and a count of delivering marijuana.
• Nicholas L. Burke, 28, Powell, charged with delivering marijuana.
• Terrance W. Bangart, 26, Cody, charged with delivering hallucenegenic mushrooms.
• Chance F. Jacobsen, 24, Cody, charged with illegally delivering prescription drugs and hallucenegenic mushrooms.
• Jesse R. Ballard, 29, Cody, charged with two counts of delivering marijuana.
• Jonathan A. Philips, 20, Cody, charged with delivering marijuana.
• Jacob McCaslin, 22, Laurel, Mont., charged with delivering marijuana and LSD.
• Jessica J. McDonald, 23, Powell, charged with delivering marijuana and illegal prescription drugs.
• Henry N. Blickenstaff, 20, Cody, charged with illegally delivering prescription drugs.
• Michael A. Rosacci, Powell, charged with delivering cocaine and marijuana.
Another man indicted by the grand jury, Erik K. Sehnert, 32, of Cody, is scheduled for arraignment on Wednesday on a charge of delivering marijuana.
County attorney Skoric said there were further indictments that have yet to be unsealed, but said he legally could not provide an exact number.
Davis said the county attorney's office began preparing for the grand jury in February.
On Tuesday, Skoric said he could not yet go into detail as to why he chose a grand jury, but said the nature of the cases and the efficiency of the process were factors.
Normally, felony cases begin at the circuit court level, with the filing of charges by the county attorney's office. The case then goes through a preliminary hearing in front of a judge who weighs the evidence and determines if there is enough evidence for a case. If that burden is met, the case is bound over to district court. The process can take several months.
With a grand jury, jurors weigh the evidence and the case immediately enters at the district court level.
While the timeline may be escalated, Skoric said the work load is about the same.
“Certainly, it's not cutting any corners by doing this with a grand jury,” Skoric said.