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Past board members testify in ex-director's trial

Aug 28, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Carol Thiesse is charged with stealing from the Fremont County Pioneer Museum, which she once oversaw.

The defense began mounting its case Friday during the third day in the trial of former Fremont County Pioneer Museum director Carol Thiesse in Riverton Circuit Court.

A seven-member jury is to decide whether the defendant is guilty of stealing from the institution she oversaw.

Thiesse was the director of the county-owned Pioneer Museum from October 2008 until the Fremont County Museums Board of Trustees fired her on Aug. 22, 2012.

She was arrested on April 16, 2014, on felony charges before the counts against her were reduced to one misdemeanor charge of larceny by bailee.

The charge alleges she stole property for which she was responsible.

Banks

With his first witnesses Friday morning, Thiesse's lawyer, Tim Kingston of Cheyenne, sought to portray his client as the victim of persecution by local personalities.

He called former Fremont County Museums Board member Stephen Banks, who said the Fremont County Commission had demanded the board fire Thiesse in the summer of 2012.

He described the reason for the commission's move as "complaints from certain museums people, citizens that didn't like how she was doing things."

Banks said he did not want to fire the defendant.

"I think Carol did an excellent job," Banks said.

Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun sought to refocus the trial on evidence he believes shows Thiesse acted unlawfully. He directed Banks's attention to a set of photographs taken in the early part of the 20th century that had been donated to the Pioneer Museum in the 1990s.

No one disputes the pictures were discovered in Thiesse's home in April 2014, about 20 months after she was fired, LeBrun said.

"Would you have demanded they be returned?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes, I think they should have been back in the museum," Banks said.

Duncan

Kingston next called another former museums board member, Tom Duncan.

Duncan said three directors of the Pioneer Museum before Thiesse had been pressured to quit due to complaints from community members. The same thing happened to the defendant, he said.

"It's not unusual for the Pioneer Museum," Duncan said. "It's been the subject of a lot of criticism."

LeBrun again focused on the museum's photographs found in Thiesse's home and asked Duncan if he would have demanded they be returned to the museum.

"If there were sufficient evidence to prove they were property of the Pioneer Museum, then yes," Duncan said.

Thiesse

Before breaking for lunch, the defense had finished with all of its witnesses save one. Thiesse confirmed to Riverton District Court Judge Wesley Roberts that she wanted to testify and was prepared to do so Friday afternoon.

LeBrun said he wanted to call two rebuttal witnesses who would testify after Thiesse, and Roberts directed him to submit formal requests for a subpoena of those witnesses for consideration.

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