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For Public land hunters out West, this is an important case. For many years the gray area on crossing from one public land property to another in a corner where private land intersects has been an issue for hunters being able to access public lands. There are millions of acres that under current corner crossing rules, cannot be accessed by the public.

This case may be able to change the law but where you have big money and politics involved, these 4 hunters even with a go fund me account now at $70,000 to help gain access for all hunters will be daunting.

Here is the beginning of the case and the link to the article. Below that is the link to the onx report providing lhe history of corner crossing and public land.


Corner crossing jury empaneled, opening arguments delivered
Seven jurors, chosen from pool of 58, hear opening arguments on nature of trespass, role of airspace, in case involving stepping from public land, over private land, to public land.
by Angus M. Thuermer Jr.April 28, 2022

Carbon County Circuit Court Judge Susan Stipe confers with a clerk while 58 members of a jury pool were excused from a temporary courtroom where they were being questioned for bias during the jury selection process Wednesday. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./ WyoFile)

The three-woman, four-man Carbon County jury heard a prosecutor allege Wednesday that four Missouri hunters “wanted an opportunity to challenge the law” when they corner crossed to access public land while hunting near Elk Mountain Ranch.
County Prosecutor Ashley Mayfield Davis told the jury that the hunters had to pass through the airspace above private Elk Mountain Ranch property as they went from one parcel of federal property to another in 2021. “Landowners don’t just own the land,” she told the jury, “you also own your airspace.”



But an attorney for the defendants, who face counts of criminal trespass and, for three of them, an alternate charge of trespassing to hunt, said the four never set foot on another person’s property.

“What you won’t hear is [that] these men ever touched private property,” Trevor Schenk said. The case will show that Phillip G. Yeomans, Bradly H. Cape, John W. Slowensky and Zachary M. Smith went from one piece of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property to another where the parcels share a common corner with two pieces of Elk Mountain Ranch land.

“These men traveled through the air above the ground,” he said. “They did not touch any private property.”
“This,” he said, swishing his arm over an imaginary property line, “is not criminal trespass.”

The case involves the checkerboard pattern of land ownership in parts of Carbon County — and millions of acres in the American West — where private and public land are interspersed. Corner crossing involves stepping from one piece of public land to another at the common corner with two pieces of private property.

The misdemeanor trial before Carbon County Circuit Court Judge Susan Stipe is expected to last two days although she cautioned that timeframe is an estimate.

Before the lawyers presented their opening arguments, Stipe guided the six defense attorneys, two prosecutors and 58-person jury pool through the jury selection process that lasted about five hours.
Opening arguments
In her opening, prosecutor Mayfield Davis framed the case as one an elementary school student could understand. She used an example of a school child reaching into the private mailbox of another student at school to illustrate how young people learn about limits.

“In life there are boundaries everywhere,” she said.
Corner-crossing defendants wait for their trial to begin in Rawlins on April 27, 2022. They are Phillip Yeomans, second from left and partly obscured; John Slowensky, foreground in the front row, Bradly Cape, second from left in back row and Zach Smith, right. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Those exist at Elk Mountain Ranch where Fred Eshelman, a North Carolina businessman, philanthropist, conservationist, hunter and donor to conservative political causes, holds title to the private sections at the four-parcel intersection in question.

Mayfield Davis focused on the airspace above Eshelman’s property.

To corner cross “you’re going to break that plane” above the private property boundary line, she said.
“They essentially are pushing their boundaries,” she said of the hunters.

Land ownership includes the right to exclude others from the property, she told jurors. By posting “no trespassing” signs on fence posts on the private land at the corner “they were asserting their ownership right” she said.

The four wanted “to take somebody else’s property and use it without compensation,” Mayfield Davis said.
Attorneys from both sides appeared to agree that testimony will show that the hunters used a fence ladder to climb over the two fence posts in question. The posts were placed close together — each on a separate private parcel — and connected with a chain and lock.

Attorneys also appeared to agree that a brass survey monument marks the corner in question and the hunters used a Global Positioning System device, maps and land records to locate it before making their crossing.
“Landowners don’t just own the land. You also own your airspace.”
PROSECUTOR ASHLEY MAYFIELD DAVIS
Another defense attorney, Ryan Semerad, said the hunters had several times talked to law enforcement officers about corner crossing. Evidence will show that a Game and Fish warden said corner crossing is “not a crime” and that a sheriff’s deputy told the men he would not cite them, but would report the matter to the county attorney.
“What would you think?” Semerad asked jurors about corner crossing under those circumstances.

A sheriff’s deputy ultimately cited the four with criminal trespass at Mayfield Davis’ request, according to court documents and previous statements.

Criminalizing corner crossing effectively turns a landowner into a king, Semerad said, who can exclude the public from public property. The United States has no king, he said, Wyoming has no king, nor does Carbon County.

“Elk Mountain certainly has no king,” Semerad said. A private landowner “can’t take public land.”

One witness
Mayfield Davis called one witness on the first day of the trial — Eshelman attorney Greg Weisz. Described as a land-ownership specialist, he said he was familiar with the ranch, its boundaries and easements. At the corner in question “there are no easements for access for the public,” he testified.

Private Elk Mountain Ranch property surrounds several sections of public land, he said.

On cross examination defense attorney Semerad asked whether the warranty deed for the property says that Eshelman’s Iron Bar Holdings LLC “owns and controls the corner.”

“The deed doesn’t say that,” Weisz said.

Weisz has filed a separate civil suit for Eshelman’s Iron Bar Holdings LLC against the four hunters. He said Wednesday he had not thought about whether he would bill Eshelman for the time he spent as a witness in the criminal trespass case.

Questioning Weisz, defense attorney Patrick Lewallen said that there was an attempt to subpoena Eshelman for the trial but that the subpoena was “quashed.” Weisz said only that he knew a sheriff’s deputy had gone to the Elk Mountain Ranch to serve a subpoena and that Eshelman was apparently not there.

Weisz said he talked to Eshelman at the businessman’s office telephone number in North Carolina that day.



Here is a great report on the history and explanation of corner crossing-Excellent Read!

Over the past two centuries, legislation, random chance, and a variety of land deals have left the American West with a patchwork landscape of public and private land. Within the patchwork lie swaths of alternating sections of public and private land, like the squares of a checkerboard. At every point where four squares meet, there is a property corner ripe for controversy. With the issue of corner-crossing in the news again, we decided to leverage our strengths and drill down on the data. What we discovered was shocking in its scope.
The Highlights
  • Using our onX mapping technology, we identified 8.3 million acres of corner-locked lands—more than half of the West’s total landlocked area.
  • 27,120 land-locking corners exist in the West.
  • No law exists that specifically outlaws corner-crossing, but various attempts to make it either definitively legal or illegal have thus far failed.
  • Property owners have valid concerns, and any solution to the problem must address landowner needs.
  • Tools and programs for unlocking public land exist, but a widespread answer will take input and attention from a diverse group of stakeholders with varied interests.
Access matters to onX—we believe that everyone should have access to nature. When people feel connected to the land, they are more likely to protect it. Read the onX Corner-Locked Report below to gain an understanding of the issue and what’s being done to address this complex problem.
Table of Contents
The information provided here does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice, and may not constitute the most up-to-date information. Links to third-party websites are intended for the convenience of the reader and do not endorse third-party information.


The Crux of the Issue

In October of 2021, four hunters were cited for criminal trespass in Wyoming. They had not entered a private building, nor had they touched private land.



What they had done was place an A-frame ladder across an intersection of property boundaries, the location where four parcels of land meet at a point. They climbed up one side of the ladder from public land, and down the other side of the ladder, stepping kitty-corner onto a different parcel of public land. But in doing so, their bodies also crossed through the airspace of the other two parcels meeting at that point, which were private. Their trial, set for mid-April, will decide if they trespassed when they passed through that private airspace.

Read the explanation and history below-


onX Corner-Locked Report
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
This is getting pretty good.

Defense motioned after 4 witnesses could not show evidence of the hunters actually stepping on private property(They did not since they used a ladder to cross over the the corner from public to public) asked for acquittal of the hunters. The Judge indicated the jury will decide,

Now the private land owner and prosecutor are using "air space" above the property. Hunters have hired helicopters in the past to access land locked public land, so why not a device that goes over the corner from public to another public property???

"Corner-crossing judge wants ‘airspace’ language in jury instructions"

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Rumor has it, Hunters got the verdict late this afternoon on the criminal charges-

Not guilty for all defendants on all charges!!! Hunters attorney did a nice job on presenting their case. This may be the game changer on corner crossing.

Now on to Federal court on the civil charges.
 

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This is awesome news so far. Hopefully the good news will continue. Randy Newberg had some good information on his YouTube channel so I was kind of aware that this was happening. I just wasn't sure of the time frame. Good to know the criminal case is done. When is the civil case happening?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have not heard a time line but this article sheds some light on the process going forward. The civil case is important since it's reach is nationally so it will set the precedent as well, and maybe provide some clarity on future of public land, that hasn't been able to be accessed by the public land hunters due to this issue. This involves millions of acres that could become available.

 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
How is stepping over the corner, and breaking the plane above the private land, any different than flying over it in a plane? How high is high enough?
That's what the Prosecutor tried to pull on the Hunters. They didn't have a case with actual trespassing with the hunters actually stepping foot on private property so they went that route. If it did hold up, and to your point, what "air space" is able to be included since Planes, Helicopters, Drones etc already have trespassed and will be an issue in the future if it isn't defined. IMO, "Air space" is hard to define and enforce.
 

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That's what the Prosecutor tried to pull on the Hunters. They didn't have a case with actual trespassing with the hunters actually stepping foot on private property so they went that route. If it did hold up, and to your point, what "air space" is able to be included since Planes, Helicopters, Drones etc already have trespassed and will be an issue in the future if it isn't defined. IMO, "Air space" is hard to define and enforce.
I thought that in order to sue in civil court there had to be "damages"? What was damaged by passing through air?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I thought that in order to sue in civil court there had to be "damages"? What was damaged by passing through air?
Deep pockets allow you to play a long time-

"The owner of Elk Mountain Ranch filed a civil suit asking the Carbon County District Court to declare that the four men “committed a civil trespass” by corner crossing. Iron Bar Holdings, the limited liability company that holds the roughly 20,000-acre property around Elk Mountain, seeks repayment “to the fullest extent of the law,” for attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses incurred in the litigation, the civil suit states."


And it's not over- new charges have been filed by the prosecutor for 2020;

 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
And now the prosecutor wants the charges for 2020 dropped. SMH.

Prosecutor: Dismiss new corner-crossing charges
After a jury found four hunters not guilty, a prosecutor says the ‘essential facts’ in a second round of trespassing charges have already been considered.
Angus M. Thuermer Jr.
May 6, 2022

Carbon County Prosecutor Ashley Mayfield Davis has asked Carbon County Circuit Court Judge Susan Stipe to dismiss a second round of indictments against three Missouri hunters whom a jury found not guilty of corner crossing.


Mayfield Davis filed the motion to dismiss criminal trespass and trespassing to hunt charges against Brad Cape, Zach Smith and Phillip Yeomans on May 4, according to court documents. The judge has not yet signed an order dismissing the new charges as requested, but is expected to next week, a clerk at the court in Rawlins said.

A Carbon County jury found the three men, plus companion John Slowensky, not guilty on April 29 of a 2021 corner crossing incident at the Elk Mountain Ranch owned by North Carolina resident Fred Eshelman. Just before the trial started, Mayfield Davis served three of the men with a summons to appear at an arraignment on similar charges, but relating to a hunting excursion in 2020.
“The essential facts in this matter were considered by the Jury.”
CARBON COUNTY PROSECUTOR ASHLEY MAYFIELD DAVIS
Mayfield Davis wants that arraignment canceled and the 2020 charges dismissed.
“The essential facts in this matter were considered by the Jury,” the motion reads. “Therefore, rather than submitting the same evidence to another Jury, the State believes a dismissal would be in the interest of judicial economy and would ask the Court to dismiss the Information [charges] without prejudice.”
Without prejudice means the case could be filed again.

Corner crossing is the act of stepping from one piece of public property to another at the common of two private pieces, all arranged in a checkerboard pattern. The hunters, in both 2020 and 2021 instances, said they never touched Eshelman’s private land when they corner crossed during the two hunting seasons.

Their trial for the 2021 incident lasted three days. A three-woman, three-man jury found them not guilty of criminal trespass — and an alternate charge of trespassing-to-hunt — in fewer than two hours. The defendants did not testify.

In her motion, Mayfield Davis laid out a timeline for the second round of charges — those for the 2020 incident she now wants dismissed.

The prosecutor’s office first alleged the 2020 trespass on April 13, 2022, before the trial on the 2021 incident began, the motion says. The office filed those charges in response to the hunters’ request to dismiss their 2021 case.


The information from 2020 corner crossing was to be used, and was used, in the trial for the 2021 incident, the motion says.

Just before jury selection began in last month’s trial, a Carbon County Sheriff’s Office deputy served three of the men with summons for new charges. It asked them to appear at a June 6 arraignment in Rawlins.

Mayfield Davis’ latest motion asks that the judge vacate that scheduled arraignment.

The men killed one elk in 2020 and two elk and a deer in 2021, court documents state. Eshelman’s Iron Bar Holdings owns the Elk Mountain Ranch that stretches across more than 20,000 acres of Carbon County’s Elk Mountain.

Across the West, some 8.3 million acres of public land are “landlocked” by any definition that corner crossing is illegal. A separate civil case, brought by Eshelman, is being considered in federal court where federal public land access laws could come into play.

The checkerboard pattern of land ownership — a construct of the railroad building era — makes accessing public BLM and Wyoming School Trust land difficult without trespassing or corner crossing. The men used a Global Positioning Satellite map app to locate surveyed section-corner monuments before they corner crossed, testimony and evidence showed.

They documented each monument and crossing point digitally, according to court documents and testimony. In 2021, they used a fence ladder to climb over two T-posts — driven in the two separate Elk Mountain Ranch sections and chained together — to go from one BLM section to another without setting foot on private land.

Mayfield Davis argued that passing through the airspace above Eshelman’s property constituted trespass.

Prosecutor: Dismiss new corner-crossing charges - WyoFile
 

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You can't make this stuff up. So when the ploy by the prosecutor to taint the jury that was going to hear the evidence on the 2021 incident failed to work, she then says oh nevermind on the charges for the 2020 incident. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
National Group has filed to join and support the four hunters in this civil case.

 
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