Hunters Found Not Guilty of Trespassing in Wyoming Corner-Crossing Case

Hunters Found Not Guilty of Trespassing in Wyoming Corner-Crossing Case Outdoor Life

Hunters Challenge Wyoming Corner Crossing Rules and Found “Not Guilty” of Criminal Trespassing

Four out-of-state hunters who challenged Wyoming’s corner crossing rules were found not guilty of criminal trespass or trespass to hunt by a six-member Carbon County jury on Friday, according to the Wyofile.

Corner crossing refers to walking from one corner of public land to another, diagonally crossing between corners of private land. Phillip Yeomans, Bradly Cape, John Slowensky, and Zachary Smith from Missouri used a small stepladder to cross from one parcel of public land to another during a hunt in 2021. The public lands were adjacent to private parcels of the Elk Mountain Ranch, owned by Iron Bar Holdings and managed by billionaire Fred Eshelman.

The four hunters initially faced charges of criminal trespassing, with a possibility of $750 in fines and up to six months in jail, but they pleaded not guilty.

While this verdict is a victory for the four hunters and advocates of public land hunting who have been closely following the case, a civil lawsuit is still pending in federal court. Iron Bar Holdings argues that the men “committed a civil trespass” and is seeking compensation for civil damages.

“Iron Bar Holdings has the right to exclusive control, use, and enjoyment of its property, including the airspace at the corner,” prosecutors stated in the civil suit.

Hunters Found Not Guilty of Trespassing in Wyoming Corner-Crossing Case Outdoor Life

Once all the hunters’ attorneys file the necessary documents, the lawsuit will be transferred to the federal court system. Iron Bar Holdings will then have the opportunity to request the case be moved back to the state court.

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For now, advocates for public land access are celebrating this initial victory.

“We’re thrilled with today’s outcome, as all four hunters have been acquitted of all charges in this criminal case,” says Brien Webster, the program manager for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “We hope to avoid future instances where the public is criminally prosecuted for attempting to access public lands and waters. While we recognize that this decision doesn’t set a precedent, we view it as a step in the right direction.”

The Wyoming chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers helped launch a GoFundMe campaign to support the four hunters, raising over $70,000 to cover their legal expenses in both the criminal and civil cases. Nevertheless, Webster and the Wyoming chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers hope for a fair and balanced resolution.

“We understand that private landowners have valid concerns,” says Webster. “Our goal is to find a solution that avoids an escalation that would lead to an all-or-nothing decision. We hope to learn from this situation and come together for meaningful discussions in the months and years to come.”

“We understand that private landowners have valid concerns,” says Webster. “Our goal is to find a solution that avoids an escalation that would lead to an all-or-nothing decision. We hope to learn from this situation and come together for meaningful discussions in the months and years to come.”