A recently filed federal lawsuit claims Teton County law enforcement officers and attorneys conspired to charge a former resident with a sex-related offense and also played a behind-the-scenes role in a slander campaign that crushed the reelection effort of former Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon.
The two men and a third anonymous man are seeking damages for harm they claim they suffered at the hands of the sheriff’s office and county attorney.
In the lawsuit, ex-mayor Muldoon claims cops saw him as a political enemy who “was publicly critical of law enforcement, and … as a threat to their power and funding.”
The lawsuit was filed by Muldoon, former West Bank resident William “Mike” Crothers and a “John Doe” plaintiff who all claim a long list of law enforcement violations.
The three are asking for unspecified cash damages for the alleged actions, which they say violated their constitutional rights. Outside of the federal lawsuit, their cases are not connected.
In an email to the News&Guide, Muldoon said last week that in his case county law officers and prosecutors “clearly believe they’re above the law, and someone has to hold them accountable.”
He said the sheriff’s office “committed a crime in order to illegally influence an election because they were afraid I was a threat to their funding and power.
“I know that the crime committed by the [sheriff’s office] robbed the citizens of Jackson of their right to a free and fair election,” he wrote.
The sheriff’s office was abetted by county prosecutors, Muldoon wrote, who “fabricated a false interpretation of the law [about release of information] in order to cover up their crime.”
Crothers has been battling county law enforcement, prosecutors and the court system for more than two years after a Teton County jury found him guilty on two misdemeanor counts of unlawful contact and a third count of permitting an underage house party. The jury found him not guilty of breach of peace, a third count of unlawful contact and a high misdemeanor charge of sexual battery. Crothers is appealing those convictions.
Muldoon’s complaints about investigators involved their actions after a woman accused him of sexual assault. After a long investigation by state cops no charges were filed, but information about the investigation became public as Muldoon ran for a Town Council seat.
According to the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, Teton County and several of its employees worked “to exert public pressure and take other illegal actions to prejudice and harm individuals wrongly accused of perpetrating a sexual assault-related crime.”
In doing so, “Teton County and its law enforcement have overstepped the law in their overzealous effort to effectuate alleged justice,” the suit says.
Named as respondents are the Teton County Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff Matt Carr, County and Prosecuting Attorney Erin Weisman, deputies Bret Bommer, Dave Hodges, Clay Platt and Andrew Roundy, and former Deputy County Attorney Clark Allan, who prosecuted the case against Crothers.
The case filed by Laramie attorney Tom Fleener, who represented Crothers in his trial, claims a deliberate effort was made to smear and unfairly prosecute the three men.
“All three have had their sexual assault-related charges dropped or have otherwise prevailed on them,” the suit says. “Doe has had two sexual assault proceedings wrongfully brought against him, only for Teton County to later drop them because they had no merit. Crothers had a sexual battery charge wrongfully brought against him, which he was forced to take to trial where he ultimately prevailed with the jury. Muldoon had an allegation of sexual assault brought to Teton County investigation, and the allegation was not prosecuted and definitely proven to be false.”
The men claim that any successful defense they mounted only partly remedied the harm done.
According to the language of attorney Fleener’s suit, “the process of serving ‘justice’ in Teton County is such that the process the accused must go through as alleged sexual perpetrators is nearly as harmful as the consequences of being found guilty. It’s a no-win situation” in which “merely being accused of committing a sex crime carries severe reputational consequences — whether the accused is found innocent or not.”
Crothers was charged after a May 2019 incident in which he returned home inebriated to find his teenage son hosting a party of his friends. Deputies heard the story and began investigating days later. That led to charges that Crothers had kissed two underage girls and also grabbed the butt of one. The alleged groping — charged as a high misdemeanor sexual battery — was added after the first two counts of unlawful contact, Crothers has claimed, as a hammer to force him to plead guilty to the other charges. He was acquitted of the battery charge.
Along with his not-guilty pleas and other protestations, Crothers has claimed that prosecutor Clark Allan made slanderous comments about him and conspired with the News&Guide to publish “numerous inflammatory newspaper articles.” The News&Guide covered the public court proceedings, which drew a standing-room only crowd, and included hours of testimony from teens at the party.
Crothers also claims that witnesses were intimidated and coerced, and some were promised immunity from prosecution for the alcohol and drug use said to have been going on at his party.
Crothers maintained from the start he didn’t remember doing anything out of line, but at his sentencing hearing said, “I take complete responsibility for my actions that night.”
He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, 30 of that suspended. That sentence has been held in abeyance while he appeals.
Another member of Crothers’ team, Los Angeles attorney Rebecca N. Kaufman, emailed the News&Guide last week to reaffirm the claims in the suit.
“The complaint accurately alleges that the sheriff’s department and prosecutor’s office worked together to coerce false testimony and intimidate witnesses” because it was dedicated “to win a ‘high-profile case’ (in their own words).”
Kaufman’s email said the Sheriff’s Office and prosecutors did that “despite a paucity of evidence and with no regard to Mr. Crothers’ rights” and that “Teton County officials have a history and pattern of abusing their power by misusing and leaking to the press confidential information.”
Muldoon claims in the suit that he was targeted by law enforcement because of his work as mayor to scrutinize budgets, support a coronavirus mask rule and get then-Police Chief Todd Smith to endorse a Black Lives Matter manifesto. Law enforcement, the suit says, “illegally released documents to the public detailing the sexual assault allegation, which they knew to be false, just weeks before election day for Muldoon,” and did that “to stop what they viewed as a threat to Teton County law enforcement.”
The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation report recommended no charges against Muldoon, but the report was eventually made public through the work of a political opponent of Muldoon.
The suit goes on to claim that as a result “Muldoon lost the election he was favored to win.” In a vote to pick two councilors from four candidates, he came in last with 1,825 votes, with the third-place candidate garnering 2,304 and the leader 2,791.
The John Doe was a Jackson Hole High School student investigated in 2019 for two rapes, months after the incidents. He was arrested and held in county jail for three days before prosecutors decided they wouldn’t charge him.
He claims no charges were filed after investigators learned the sex was consensual. He also says prosecutors “improperly redacted documents” so that he could be identified even though his full name wasn’t included and that they deliberately delayed charges until his 18th birthday so they could charge him as an adult.
As a result, he claims, he failed to make the jump to college and found it difficult to find work because of the harm to his reputation.
Besides alleging unfair prosecution against the three men, the language of the suit details what Crothers sees as his unfair and ungenerous treatment at the hands of police and prosecutors.
Crothers is an investor connected to a Dallas firm who with his wife moved to Teton County 14 years before their troubles here began. They “gave their time, energy and money” to benefit Jackson Hole, his lawyers write, invested in and mentored small businesses “not for the potential return but because of what he felt was his obligation” to help young businesspeople.
Crothers’ lawyers wrote that his “friends describe him as gregarious, generous in spirit, friendly and approachable.” While being questioned about the night at his house, he told a deputy that he was a member of the sheriff’s auxiliary and had donated to Sheriff Matt Carr’s campaign.
The suit also notes the family-friendly nature of the Crothers home, “full of playdates and sleepovers,” a place where “there was always room for another plate at the dinner table.”
Crothers has said in the past that the damage to his reputation invited vandalism of his West Bank house and forced him out of the community. He now lives in Colorado.
Crothers’ attorney Kaufman didn’t answer a News&Guide question about whether Crothers had recruited his co-plaintiffs to strengthen his own case.
“Mr. Crothers, Mr. Muldoon and Mr. Doe have banded together to challenge and hold accountable the corrupt criminal justice system in Teton County, which violated their constitutional rights,” she wrote to the News&Guide.
Muldoon emailed the News&Guide that he believes the suit is not only justified but necessary because the sheriff’s office “will never investigate themselves, and the county attorney will never prosecute their crimes.”