Pre-trial conference set for Riverton woman facing 10 counts of animal cruelty

    All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

    (Riverton, WY) – 51-year-old Kathy Wright had her change of plea and sentencing hearing scheduled yesterday, May 1 in front of the Honorable Judge Daniel Stebner at the Riverton Circuit Court.

    Wright faces 10 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animal charges after dozens of animals were found dead on her property, and others were eventually seized due to their reported condition.


    Wright had planned to plead guilty pursuant to Alford to counts 1, 2, 4, and 5. In exchange, the State would dismiss the other six counts.

    During initial questioning from Judge Stebner, Wright said that she was not satisfied with her counsel, Lisa Kisling, who was appointed to her from the public defender’s office.

    One of the reasons she was not satisfied is because she had to go to a different attorney to get explanations of things like an Alford plea.

    An Alford plea “registers a formal admission of guilt towards charges in criminal court while the defendant simultaneously expresses their innocence toward those same charges.”


    Stebner asked Wright if she had taken the issue to Jonathan Gerard, the Fremont County Public Defender Supervisor.

    Wright had gone even higher to State Public Defender Diane Lozano in an attempt to be appointed a new public defender, because she could not afford to hire outside counsel.

    This defense counsel dissatisfaction ultimately halted yesterday’s change of plea and sentencing hearing.


    The State, represented by Ember Oakley, wanted to vacate yesterday’s hearing and set a trial date, noting she did not want to see the proceedings and court be “held hostage” by this.

    Wright said she could not go to trial with her current counsel. Her speedy trial deadline is July 10.

    Stebner reasoned that setting a trial date would give Wright time to work through her issues with Kisling or file a form pro se with the courts to appoint a different attorney.


    He told her that she would have to demonstrate that the issues go beyond not getting along with her attorney or unhappiness with her. He warned that it’s “an uphill battle,” because courts generally do not interfere with appointed public defenders.

    In a statement emailed to County 10, the Fremont County Public Defender’s Office shared the following:

    “Every criminal defendant has three options: they can go to trial; they can enter into a plea agreement with the State of Wyoming that typically reduces their maximum potential jail or prison sentence; or they can plead guilty without a plea agreement and leave the sentence to the discretion of the Court.

    “Lisa Kisling is a very experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how a guilty plea pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford functions, and I have never received a complaint from any other client of hers that she did not fully explain what an Alford plea is or how it differs from a traditional guilty plea or no contest plea. If a client chooses to reject a plea offer and proceed to trial, my office and Ms. Kisling will prepare to zealously defend the client against all charges.”

    Ultimately, a pre-trial conference was set for June 1.

    County 10 will provide updates on the case as it progresses, which can be found here.


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