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Riverton officer's trial starts this week

Apr 4, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

An off-duty Riverton police officer facing a charge of being a hazard while intoxicated at Boysen State Park is set for a jury trial beginning Thursday in Lander's Circuit Court.

Ron Cunningham's trial, for the Wyoming parks regulation alleging he was intoxicated to the point he became a hazard, follows the denial of a motion to dismiss the charge.

The charge carries a maximum criminal fine of $210.

Documents filed in Circuit Court state that Cunningham cut in line at a Boysen bathroom and urinated "all over the place" in front of a 10-year-old boy July 3.

Cunningham allegedly was intoxicated at the time, and his actions upset the boy's family members and others, causing the off-duty officer to flee the area on a boat with his girlfriend, according to court documents.

Cunningham also had been charged with misdemeanor interference with a peace officer, but special prosecutor Greg Blenkinsop in Sweetwater County asked to dismiss the count Dec. 23.

Last month, defense attorney Vance Countryman argued that the charge is unconstitutional because it fails to specify a hazard, but Circuit Judge Robert B. Denhardt rejected the claim in his decision filed March 26.

"There is no fundamental constitutional right to be intoxicated on State Park Lands," Denhardt wrote. "The State would have the right to prohibit alcoholic beverages from being upon said lands and prohibit persons from being on said lands while under the influence of alcohol."

The judge said the state regulations do not include prohibiting alcohol or intoxication at Wyoming parks.

"In this instance, whether the defendant constituted a hazard due to the fact that he was intoxicated will be a factual issue for a jury to decide," Denhardt said.

"The word hazard is capable of being defined and the word is subject to reasonable interpretation by all persons using a State Park," he said.

In his decision, Denhardt said other arguments made by Countryman including the county attorney's office charging Cunningham because he is a police officer and failing to do so could indicate favoritism.

"The court finds that the rule in question is not constitutionally infirm under any of the arguments made by the defendant and therefore the defendant's motion to dismiss is denied," he wrote.

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