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LeBrun to challenge Bennett for top job

LeBrun to challenge Bennett for top job

Apr 14, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

After five years walking "a step behind" the Fremont County Attorney, Patrick LeBrun announced Sunday that he wants to lead.

LeBrun is running as a Republican to be the top prosecutor.

Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett announced in February he would run for another term, setting the two up to square off in the August GOP primary.

"I promise that I have the legal skills to do this job effectively, I promise I am a good manager, and I will not waste your money... I promise I will never forget there are crime victims and that we are in this together, I promise I will be in this office every day making sure the county attorney's office is doing its part, and I promise to put justice first," LeBrun said.

About 40 people filled a conference room at Riverton's Holiday Inn to hear LeBrun's announcement. They applauded after he spoke and showed their support by snapping up the nearly two dozen yard signs lining the room's walls when they left.

Deputies attend

In attendance were Ember Oakley and Tim Hancock, both deputy county attorneys based in the Riverton office, and several Fremont County Sheriff's deputies.

Oakley introduced LeBrun.

"About a year ago Brian Varn put in his resignation, and the commissioners appointed Mike Bennett for county attorney. We would rack that up as a rough year. We've had many changes and headed in a direction many in our office, and many of the agencies we work with, believe is a wrong direction," she said. "Luckily, we have the right man in our office currently."

Resigned April 4

LeBrun started as a deputy county attorney in Fremont County in 2009 and resigned effective April 4.

Varn resigned as Fremont County Attorney in January 2013. The Fremont County Republican Party nominated LeBrun, 42, of Riverton, and Bennett as candidates to fill the post, and Fremont County Commissioners chose Bennett.

Before moving to Riverton, LeBrun had worked for seven years for a private law firm in Casper after graduating from the University of Wyoming College of Law in 2002.

He said believes in second chances for criminals, such as property crime offenders, but harsh punishment for those who hurt others.

He drew a difference between drug users and sellers.

"A lot of our young adults...have gotten into drugs. I recognize that happens, and I'm going to focus on treatment in those situations, but if we have an individual that is going to sell drugs to children or continues to sell drugs, my administration would treat that very harshly," he said.

A year working under Bennett and seeing how he runs the office led LeBrun in January to decide to run, he said.

"The office's treatment of crime victims and inability to communicate with other agencies in the community, such as law enforcement, culminated in my decision that I have to run for county attorney," he said.

Bennett criticism

In his remarks, LeBrun blasted Bennett's administration.

"The interim appointee does not understand that his job is to serve the people," he said. "When a leader doesn't understand that, he does not lead."

LeBrun said he would collaborate better with the Juvenile Justice Alternatives Initiative. The program developed under Varn, aims to rehabilitate juvenile offenders who are expelled from their schools with , education, volunteer programs and counseling rather than imprisoning them.

"I'm learning that program is being ignored, and I'm going to do what I can to reinstitute that," he said.

Plea bargains

He would always involve those hurt by a crime in forming plea agreements, LeBrun said, a topic on which Bennett has received criticism.

"You can't find out what is fair until you talk to the victim," LeBrun said.

A brochure for LeBrun also touches on an issue for which the county attorney has been criticized.

"In situations where deadly force is used, it is up to a Fremont County citizen jury to determine whether the force was reasonable under those circumstances," LeBrun stated.

In December, Bennett dropped murder charges against Gabriel Drennen for killing Leroy Hoster, spurring friends and family to start a petition to remove Bennett from office. The county attorney said he believed Drennen shot Hoster in self-defense.

LeBrun promised to make plea agreements in major crime cases only if the defendant accepts full responsibility and agrees to "appropriate punishment." Otherwise, if the cases are provable, he promised to try them.

Races developing

LeBrun's announcement brings the number of contested countywide elections to three. Former Riverton police officer Mark Stone is challenging Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker, and chief deputy county coroner Mark Stratmoen is running against Lander funeral director Dominic Weigel for the Fremont County Coroner's office. All are Republicans.

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