Turmoil in the Fremont County Attorney’s office: Another deputy attorney fired

(Riverton, Wyo.) – Deputy Fremont County Attorney Ember Oakley was fired Friday morning by County and Prosecuting Attorney Michael Bennett, allegedly over a plea agreement in a methamphetamine case that Bennett asserted in open court had violated office policy. See that story here.

Oakley said she was fired in retaliation for her support of former deputy attorney Patrick LeBrun’s candidacy for the seat now held by Bennett. LeBrun resigned from the office in April. See that story here.

When contacted by County10.com and asked to comment, Bennett said he was not at liberty to discuss the dismissal. “Mr. Bennett said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on personnel issues,” he wrote in an email response for comment on the issue. 

The plea agreement that apparently was the basis for Oakley’s dismissal was in the case of Dubois resident Trampes Rivers, who appeared in Ninth District Court on Thursday on methamphetamine-related charges. The agreement has not yet been accepted by the court pending a pre-sentence investigation. The plea agreement called for Rivers to spend five years of intensive supervised probation in lieu of a 5 to 10 year suspended prison sentence.

In a statement released hours after her dismissal, Oakley said the agreement for which she was allegedly fired was not the one she had negotiated with Rivers’ public defender, Devon Peterson. “The agreement entered in court took the jail time away I had in the agreement,” she said.

Oakley went on to say that every employee in Bennett’s office is in fear of their job. “He has absolutely created an atmosphere of fear and retribution in the office. I am the third woman out of three in the Riverton office in a position of power that he has fired for no articulable reason,” Oakley told County10.com “The third and last of the women in power has been fired.”

Shortly after Bennett was appointed to the post, on February 19, 2013 to replace Brian Varn, he released Deputy Attorney Kathy Kavanaugh and then he released the office manager and felony secretary in Riverton Kelly Hinman.

Ember said the only thing Bennett would say about her dismissal was that she had mishandled the case. “That’s not accurate in several ways, again, the offer I made was completely consistent with how these cases are handled, there was nothing at all about the agreement that was in any way out of bounds or out of line,” she said. “Devon Peterson and I negotiated that, and he told me he did not see anything amiss about the negotiations or the plea agreement himself. Inexplicably, or maybe there is an explanation, the plea Bennett entered into court wasn’t the one I made. It took the jail time away and completely undercut the deal I made.”

Oakley also said that there is no office policy on how plea agreements are handled, and up until Friday, she had not been required to submit a plea to Bennett for approval. “He would not tell me how I mishandled the case, he would not answer and I asked him three times,” she said. “Every single plea agreement I’ve entered into since he’s been in office I did with complete and full authority. We do not have a policy that we have to run our deals, plea agreements, through Bennett. I have never done that. We have authority to do these.”

Oakley’s formal statement is copied in its entirety below:

“Today I was fired from my position that I’ve held for 3 years at the County Attorney’s office.  It was under the auspices of “Mishandling a case”.

 I can prove to you that this is not true in 2 different ways.

Through media, I learned that Mike Bennett said on the record- in court- yesterday that I made an offer “outside of office policy”.

I want to be very clear – not only did I NOT step outside of ANY POLICY of the County Attorney’s office – I didn’t even get near a line.  I have been a Felony attorney in our office for years, and have had full authority to negotiate.  Every defense attorney, prosecutor and secretary working in the criminal justice system in FC knows this to be true.

I have had that authority every day of the last year that Bennett has been in office.  And it has always been with his blessing.

Second,  the Agreement that Bennett agreed to impose yesterday was NOT the Agreement that I negotiated.  Mr. Rivers would not be out of jail today under the Agreement I offered.  The ONLY explanation for that, is in order to create this scandal, he actually agreed to impose a LIGHTER sentence than the one I offered.  He is acting like the Offer  was repugnant, yet he removed the jail time that was agreed to by both parties.  In contemplation of this political move, HE agreed to the  release of Mr. Rivers from custody yesterday.  This is contrary to the Agreement that I made.

 Make no mistake.  This is a lie- and more imporantly, a red herring– so that interim appointee Bennett could fire me for my support of Patrick LeBrun for County Attorney.  This is retaliation for my speech, and for my position.  It shows an utter lack of honesty and integrity.  Because of this, and his whole record, I truly believe that the people in Fremont County are severely under-protected.”

15 Comments

  1. Terri Hance

    For once I agree….this wlman is a mean and awful person who attavked ne outside the courtroom for sonething i did fingn my face threatening me….she has donine this to many other people as well

  2. Terri Hance

    Sorry dam phone…..she attacked me and threatened me when I was just an observer in the courtroom ….she has done this to.many.people i.have spoken to and i am so.haooy to read this….great day in my.house….the wicked witch is gone

  3. Stacia Corbett Citron

    Took him long enough to set her up. A good leader would be able to overlook personal conflicts for the good of the office. All of these women did quality work for Fremont County long before Bennett came along. Very unprofessional.

  4. Cassandra Scherf

    They all need fired from top to bottom this town is lacking a good justice system and it's going to shut and that includes probation and parole, judges and prosecuting attorneys

  5. Tamsyn Farrell

    I dealt with this woman. I think this was justified. I went to her office as they requested me to to discuss a case in which I was the victim. It was a complete waste of time they discussed the different options they had in the case and she thought I should be comfortable with the plea deal they were discussing. I was not at all but my feelings in the case apparently were of no consequence. She cut a deal with sole on who has beaten me multiple times and has continued to stalk me and harass me and make my life a living hell. The deal was if he plead guilty to the stalking charges against me she would completely dismiss his battery charges from when he beat me so he did then she gave him a 301 on the stalking charges… How is justice served there? The prosecuting attorneys office is a joke all they do is cut outrageous deals so that way they keep their numbers up. Who cares if justice is served as long as they can cut a deal and mark that up to a conviction.

  6. Joe Brandl

    how does one guy who had a burgury charge get 18-24 months, (a case I testified for) with no history of substance abuse or any record of an arrest much less a traffic ticket and Rivers gets no jail time for this????

  7. Michael Smith

    Why is it the County attorney's position morphed into a "Highly Controversial" position ever since the now Honorable Judge Norman Young left when appointed Judge

  8. Terri Hance

    All i know is thank.god she is gone

  9. Danny Svilar

    Do Not Like..

  10. Sandra Beydler

    I think she grossly mishandled the case!

  11. Scott Powers

    Hey she is an at will employee and if she is going to openly support the guy running against her current boss then she should be terminated

  12. Benna Dick

    “The third and last of the women in power has been fired.” Key word power. Good riddance Ember Oakley. She is a lawyer by god and we have not heard the last of her i tell ya. And here is the kicker, the burden falls on the taxpayers shoulders in the end. Dont vote for patrick Lebrun Folks. He is more of the same of ember oakley here. Mike bennett is the first person to come forward and call out this corrupt county attorney's office. Cases have been mishandled for years around here its no secret. People want transparency in local government! Mike Bennett is providing it one power grubber at a time. THAT IS ALL

  13. Tania Bernard-O'Neal

    either way… the 'justice system' is a joke! IF this was someone on the rez they'd get the book & THEN some! They ALL should spend quality time behind bars WITH the criminals (KEEP THEM OFF THE STREETS!) and those that protect/lie for them… a story of he said/she said methinks… grrrhhh WHY can't people just do their job, do it right, and quit the BS?

  14. Brooklyn Judd

    Wondering how many thousands in taxpayer money have gone into this investigation, search and seizure, arrest and negotiations. Considering the search itself apparently required both the Riverton and Dubois fire department, Riverton and Dubois police departments, Wyoming division of criminal investigations, and HAZMAT. Then the CS1's wearing wires. Now a firing in the county attorneys office over a probable conviction for delivery of $20 worth? Wow, score, way to go. Really cleaned up the neighborhood.

  15. Bernice Seminole

    Im glad the county fired her. Shes not fair or consistant in her job duties. Prejudicial, sarcastic. glad she's gone.

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