Corner crossing case could move to federal court
The controversial corner crossing case in Carbon County, Wyoming may move to a federal court. An attorney for the four Missouri hunters filed a petition on March 22 in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming, requesting that the case be moved, according to WyoFile.
As GOHUNT previously reported, in October 2021, the four men used a ladder to cross from a section of public U.S. Bureau of Land Management land in Wyoming to another. This is known as corner crossing and often falls in the legal gray area. However, because Brad Cape, Phillip Yoemans, John Slowensky and Zach Smith technically stepped over an area where two of the corners were public land and the other two were private land, the four men now face criminal trespass charges in Carbon County. Iron Bar Holdings LLC filed the civil case against the men earlier this year. Both Iron Bar Holdings and the Elk Mountain Ranch, where the corner crossing occurred, are owned by Fred Eshelman, a North Carolina mega-millionaire, according to WyoFile.
Along with the request for transfer to a federal venue, attorney Ryan Semerad has also petitioned for a jury trial.
“A federal rule of decision is necessary to protect and preserve the limitation on private landowners’ ability to control or restrict access to federally owned public lands,” wrote Semerad in his 35-page petition.
Semerad previously tried to have the case dismissed, using federal law to back up the request.
“Federal law prohibits any person or group of persons from preventing Mr. Yeomans, his friends, or others from freely passing through public lands,” according to the motion for dismissal. “Consequently, private landowners cannot prevent or obstruct free passage from one section of public land to another by claiming that the common corner where two private sections of land and two public sections of land meet is their exclusive property, land, or premises.
“Accordingly, the State of Wyoming cannot prosecute Mr. Yeomans or any other person for criminal trespass when Mr. Yeomans or another person travels from one section of public land to another section of public land at a common corner with two sections of private land,” the motion reads.
Should the case move towards a federal court and should a federal court (or jury trial) find the men not guilty of trespassing, it could change how corner crossing is interpreted going forward, especially in areas of the West where public land is “landlocked” by private land.
Stay tuned to GOHUNT for further updates.