Kami Spencer, right, spoke with the Fremont County Commission. Joshua Scheer photo.
(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commission this morning heard grievances from a local about Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett, and Commission Chairman Doug Thompson agreed the matter warranted looking into.
Ultimately, after a lengthy statement, Kami Spencer asked the Commission to request Bennett’s resignation and to ask the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office to look into Bennett’s actions. Spencer is the mother of Leroy Hoster’s child; Hoster was shot and killed by Gabriel Drennen in 2010, and Bennett recently dropped all charges in case.
Spencer called Bennett’s actions “horrible” and said he does not consider victims of crimes when prosecuting cases. “Mr. Bennett may say that he is there for the victims and does all he can,” she said. “He may even truly believe that himself, but I am here to tell you he is wrong.”
“He may feel that he doing his job, but his job isn’t to ruin people’s lives further,” she said.
“There was no consideration of what we felt, what we wanted to see happen, or even how we would feel if ‘this’ happened,” Spencer continued. “I believe that is not being there for the victims. He has done this before, you have heard about it before and people have talked with you about this before. … He said the other county attorneys had lied to us and misled us, but at least they fought for the victims. They didn’t treat us like we didn’t matter. Brian Varn and Kathy Kavanagh care about the victims that are subject to rough times during cases.”
Spencer also talked about the petition she has started and said she would keep it live for as long as she must. She said many people have told her they wished they could sign it but won’t because of their jobs. “I will continue with my petition to keep him from being the next elected county attorney,” she said.
Thompson said the commission could not ask Bennett to resign without looking into the matter first. “I think this bares investigation,” he said.
Bennett was then given a chance to respond. He slammed the county attorney administration that came before him, and he said by statute his primary obligation is “to seek justice” not convictions. This includes providing fair trials to defendants.
He said the constitution guarantees individual rights, including fair trials. If he were to follow in the prosecutorial footsteps of Varn and Kavanagh, and their actions in the Drennen case, the Constitution would be just another piece of paper, just like Spencer’s statement. The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that Varn and Kavanagh misled the jury during the Drennen trial. “Lying to the jury is not sound reason,” he said.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the vociferous few change my view of the constitution,” he said.
“For far too long we’ve had the wrong people driving the bus,” Bennett continued. “This is my community. I’m not going anywhere.”
Bennett said he stands by his decision to dismiss the Drennen case, despite not liking his own decision. He said the only way he could have continued to prosecute the case was to lie, as his predecessors had. He said Varn and Kavanagh had promised the victims something they couldn’t keep without lying.
“Do you want prosecutors who are willing to lie to get a conviction?” he asked, later adding, “My decisions are based on law.”
Thompson asked Bennett to explain why if the Supreme Court remanded the case for a new trial, he didn’t go through with one. “Our office would have had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (Drennen) didn’t act in self defense,” Bennett said. “I had no argument beyond a reasonable doubt. … I had no evidence because I was not willing to manipulate the facts and lie to a jury. I damn know you don’t expect that from me.”
Aside from Thompson, none of the other commissioners spoke during the discussion.