Oct 10, 2012 The Associated Press

Arson suspect pleads not guilty

CHEYENNE -- A New Mexico man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges in a 2010 fire that destroyed a landmark Wyoming hotel.

Robert Rodriguez, 44, wore shackles and jail clothing when he appeared before U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal in Cheyenne.

Rodriguez pleaded not guilty to charges of arson and using fire to commit mail or wire fraud in the fire that destroyed the Hitching Post Inn. The establishment had been a favorite lodge and watering hole for Wyoming lawmakers for decades.

Freudenthal told Rodriguez that he faces a possible penalty, if convicted of both counts, of 15 to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

Rodriguez's trial was set for Dec. 3. Court records indicate he was arrested in Sandoval County, N.M., but documents that might describe what led investigators to him have been sealed.

Burn planned

BUFFALO -- Firefighters with U.S. Forest Service will conduct controlled burns this week in the Powder River Ranger District of the Bighorn National Forest.

Burns are planned in the Dry Tensleep Creek drainage west of Deerhaven Lodge and in the South Fork Paintrock Creek area near Battle Park. The timing of the burns will depend on safe weather conditions.

The smoke will be visible mostly from Worland and Tensleep. About 1,500 acres are set to be burned to improve wildlife habitat, increase range forage, and reduce hazardous fuels.

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