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Ex-museum chief sentenced to community service after theft conviction

Nov 1, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Former Fremont County Pioneer Museum director Carol Thiesse was sentenced on Friday to perform 120 hours of community service for stealing from the institution she oversaw.

A jury in August found her guilty of the crime.

"I want it to be meaningful, appropriate community service for the benefit of the people of Fremont County," Riverton Circuit Court Judge Wesley Roberts said.

He added that Thiesse is barred from working with any part of the Fremont County Museums System.

Roberts ordered the service along with a sentence of six months of probation and a $750 fine.

If she did not finish her probation and volunteer hours, she would face 120 days in jail, Roberts said.

The conviction

Thiesse was convicted of one misdemeanor charge, larceny by bailee, that she stole property from the museum before she was fired from her director position on Aug. 22, 2012.

The judge handed down the sentence after hearing from Thiesse, her lawyer Tim Kingston and Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun.

Thiesse previously worked for the museum in the 1990s, and then again starting in 2001, before her termination.

Prosecutors said she took four miniature saddles, a rolling cart, about 800 historical photographs, 20 kits to make journal-style books, 60 pieces of red-handled flatware, a Kodak video camera, and 150 brochures--all of which were museum property.

Investigators found the material at her home when she was arrested in April 2014.

But in his remarks,Kingston argued that Thiesse should not be sentenced as if she were convicted of stealing all the material prosecutors said she took.

Kingston noted that inprevious hearings, when Thiesse was convicted, jurors did not say whichitems they believed Thiesse stole. Their verdict only indicated they were convinced she stole at least one of them.

In fact, Kingston contended again, some items seized from the Thiesse home were her or her husband's property.

At Thiesse's home, investigators found a rolling map cart they believed was the one the Pioneer Museum ordered several years ago. However, Thiessemaintained the cart was her husband's, andthat he bought it about 20 years prior.

When the cart was brought up at the sentencing hearing, Thiesse's husband, in the audience, was seen to shake his head.

Roberts, in a rare move, brought up an issue not addressed during the trial. He took the white, boxy cart out during the sentencing hearing and set it on his bench. He pointed to a sticker on the cart that read "Date of manufacture" and "15 01 09."

"The only logical way to read that manufactured on Jan. 15, 2009," Roberts said.

He noted that date would only make sense if it was the cart the Pioneer Museum bought in recent years.

Ultimately, Kingston argued for a sentence of probation rather than jail noting that Thiesse had no prior criminal history.

"She's not the kind of person the court is going to have to worry will be a problem," Kingston said.

Questions of regret

LeBrun thought the maximum penalty for the crime, 180 days in jail and a $750 fine, was a fitting sentence, and argued Thiesse did not show remorse.

"I get the impression Ms. Thiesse feels she didn't ever do anything wrong, and (she thinks) even if she did something wrong the Pioneer Museum, the museums board and the people of Fremont County had it coming for how she was treated," LeBrun said.

Thiesse expressed regret but did not apologize at the hearing.

"I do regret not finding a way of returning those items that belong to the county," Thiesse said.

Roberts agreed with LeBrun that Thiesse did not seem remorseful, and that she did significant damage to the museum.

The Fremont County Museums System requested $3,700 in restitution for the labor its employees performed investigating the thefts, but Roberts said he would rule on that issue later.

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Carol Thiesse, former director of the Fremont County Pioneer Museum, in a Riverton courtroom Friday. Photo by Eric Blom

Carol Thiesse, former director of the Fremont County Pioneer Museum, in a Riverton courtroom Friday. Photo by Eric Blom


Carol Thiesse, former director of the Fremont County Pioneer Museum, in a Riverton courtroom Friday. Photo by Eric Blom

Carol Thiesse, former director of the Fremont County Pioneer Museum, in a Riverton courtroom Friday. Photo by Eric Blom

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