Wyoming news briefs for August 3
Ticket sales strong for Cheyenne Frontier Days' 125th anniversary
CHEYENNE — By the numbers, the 125th anniversary "Daddy of 'em All" was one for the record books.
Ticket sales for this year's Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and concerts totaled 267,369 – coming close to the approximately 271,000 tickets sold during the 100th anniversary in 1996, event CEO Tom Hirsig said Monday.
"I don't think any of us knew what was going to happen," Hirsig said of attendance the year after the first-ever cancellation due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "I think we all thought it was going to be big crowds, just because there's not a lot of other things to do. But I don't think we had any idea the number of people we were going to get."
Ticket sales also don't account for people who attended just attractions like the carnival, the Indian Village or Old Frontier Town.
"Our park was packed all the time," Hirsig said.
Early on in the event, he said, charging an entrance fee to the park was creating such a bottleneck that organizers decided just to forgo the fee.
Both Saturday rodeos sold out, along with the Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton night shows, according to a news release.
Total concert attendance increased 29% over 2019's shows, with 155,618 this year, compared to 120,518 two years ago. Rodeo attendance also increased by more than 14%, up to 111,617 this year from 97,373 in 2019.
Professional Bull Riders' two-night Last Cowboy Standing competition set an attendance record, Hirsig said, with 20,257 people attending July 26 and 27.
Judge rules confessed killer can’t change his guilty plea
RIVERTON — Having confessed to shooting another man in the head with a rifle, Seth Blackburn will not be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
Blackburn, who is about 31 years old, pleaded guilty May 21 to the Aug. 5, 2019 murder of Victor Dale Addison. The defendant told the court he’d heard bad things about Addison and suspected Addison was involved in the Aug. 3, 2019, death of Martika Spoonhunter. He also said he “tried to take justice into my own hands, and . . . shot him in the head.”
On July 22, Blackburn filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea and the confession, claiming his former attorney coerced him into pleading.
United States District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled on July 28 that Blackburn may not withdraw his guilty plea.
“After Seth Blackburn, in the courtroom and under oath, described killing Victor Addison by deliberately shooting him in the head, the court finds his current assertion of innocence to lack all credibility,” wrote Skavdahl. “He has offered no factual evidence, nor has the court found any in its own review of the case… supporting his claim of actual innocence.”
The judge also addressed the claim of coercion by supplying Blackburn’s own May 21 statements that he was not being coerced and was pleading voluntarily.
Blackburn’s sentencing hearing originally was set for July 29 but has been re-set for Aug. 19 at 8:15 a.m. in Skavdahl’s court. Conviction by a jury would have resulted in a mandatory life sentence, rather than the 50-65 years Blackburn agreed to through his guilty plea.
Lovell man sentenced to prison for check fraud
POWELL — After passing thousands of dollars worth of bad checks — including some stolen from his mother and grandmother — to businesses around northern Wyoming, a Lovell man is headed back to prison.
Philip K. Mickelson recently received a five- to seven-year sentence for felony counts of check fraud and forgery in Park County.
Mickelson has pleaded guilty to additional felony check fraud-related charges in Campbell and Washakie counties that are expected to tack on an additional three years of supervised probation, which will be served after he’s released from prison.
Charging documents written by investigators in Cody, Worland and Gillette say Mickelson issued more than $14,000 worth of bad or stolen checks between mid-November and mid-January. Most were written on an empty account belonging to Mickelson, but two of the purchases came from checks he stole from his family, charging documents say.
Cody Police Detective Rick Tillery said Mickelson “established a pattern of writing bad checks with Bomgaars Stores across Wyoming,” while doing the same at Ace Hardware stores in Cody and Worland.
Mickelson was sentenced in Park County in June and was ordered to pay $5,592.56 in restitution to the Cody Bomgaars and Ace stores. Meanwhile, he pleaded guilty to forgery in Campbell County last month and has agreed to pay $5,931.02 in restitution to the Bomgaars in Gillette, court records say.
He’s set to be formally sentenced on Sept. 29, but the deal calls for him to receive a five- to seven year prison sentence that will overlap with the one he received in Park County.
While 13 bad checks are detailed in the charging documents, Tillery obtained Citibank records indicating that, between early October and late December, Mickelson bounced a total of 22 checks.