CHEYENNE – A local couple acquitted of child abuse after a trial in July has again been charged with the crime.
Jessie Tribby, 31, and Anna Mae Patterson, also 31, were charged Aug. 18 with a count each of physical child abuse– responsible for welfare and issued a criminal summons to appear in court.
“It seems as though the state of Wyoming is trying to get a second bite at the apple in this action because they were unable to prove the elements of felony child abuse in the (first) trial,” a motion to dismiss the case filed by Patterson’s attorney says.
Tribby and Patterson had their initial appearance in Laramie County Circuit Court on Tuesday and were allowed to remain out of custody on their own recognizance without a bond condition that restricts their contact with each other.
A preliminary hearing is set for next week. The motion to dismiss will be argued at that time as well.
Tribby and Patterson, who married in July 2015, first were accused of severely beating Tribby’s two biological daughters with a wooden paddle in charging documents filed in January of this year.
The alleged abuse reportedly came to light when the girls went to visit their biological mother in Oregon over the Christmas holiday break in 2015.
Charging documents say Tribby had primary custody of the children in Cheyenne during the timeframe of the alleged abuse – July 2015 to December 2015 – and Patterson was homeschooling them.
Those documents also say Tribby told a social worker that he and Patterson are religious people, and the Bible says to spank with a rod and not their hand.
The original documents filed against Tribby and Patterson listed both girls as alleged victims in one count of child abuse.
Right before the case went to trial in July, the Laramie County District Attorney’s Office filed amended charging information listing only the younger daughter, born in December 2007, as the alleged victim.
After listening to the prosecution’s case, Laramie County District Judge Thomas Campbell granted the defense’s motion for a judgment of acquittal.
He ruled that he believed there was no possibility the jury could find guilt in the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The evidence is insufficient as to reckless conduct,” the judge said that day.
The charges filed against Tribby and Patterson last month list only the older girl, born in January 2007, as the alleged victim.
Patterson’s attorney, Sarah Jacobs, has filed a motion to dismiss the charge against her client with prejudice, meaning it wouldn’t be able to be re-filed.
The motion says “it is evident that the state of Wyoming is absolutely attempting to get a second chance to try this case … nothing has changed but the victims.”
The motion explains that even though there is a different victim alleged in the current criminal charge, “the same affidavit of probable cause was utilized, the same witnesses would likely testify and none of the evidence has changed.”
“None of the evidence provided earlier has changed, all the evidence dealt with both victims and was in fact difficult to differentiate at trial since virtually all the documents and evidence listed both of the children,” it continues.
The motion says the prosecution declined to go to trial with the theory that the alleged abuse was intentional, only that it was reckless – which wasn’t proven – and suggests that “they would be unlikely to succeed on either theory by slipping in the other victim and trying the case, when both should have been tried at the jury trial held in July of 2016, but were not at the state’s election.”
Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg said he could not comment on the case, citing its ongoing nature.
The motion to dismiss argues, in part, that the filing of the new charge violates Patterson’s right to a speedy trial because the initial charge that included the alleged victim in the new charge never was dismissed.
Instead, the alleged victim in the new charge was dropped from the original charge when the prosecution amended the charging information.
“Here, the original information with victim S.T. (1/2007) was never dismissed without prejudice, which would excuse the state for the violation of speedy trial,” the motion says, later adding that, “since the original information was never dismissed without prejudice, the state is barred from charging the defendant after the speedy trial deadline has elapsed.”
Wyoming’s rules of criminal procedure say a criminal trial must be held within 180 days of arraignment.
When Tribby and Patterson were arraigned in February, their speedy trial date was calculated as Aug. 14, and they never waived their right to a speedy trial.
While they didn’t demand a speedy trial, the motion says they can prove they’ve been harmed by the delay.
“This is a huge financial burden on their family, and prejudices them emotionally and financially,” the motion says.
The motion says the couple lost about $23,000 in income because they couldn’t work while the other case was pending, along with $25,000 in attorney fees.
“They have already lost $48,000 due to the state of Wyoming charging them with a crime they could not prove, and that they did not commit,” it says.
“Now the state of Wyoming is forcing them to undergo the same hardship on a charge they could not prove the first time around.”
The motion also argues that the new charge can be considered double jeopardy – being prosecuted, convicted or punished for the same crime after acquittal or conviction – and violates a legal rule that bars re-litigation of issues that already were or could have been determined in a previous case.