- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - Former Campbell County Sheriff William Pownall broke office protocol in handling his son’s arrest on a drunken driving charge last year, according to a report by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation.

The broken protocol included Pownall, who is now a state lawmaker, telling a deputy he wasn’t going to send charges involving Seth Pownall to the County Attorney’s Office until after a contested Aug. 19 primary election in which the former lawman was a candidate and asking his subordinate to file a less serious charge, the report says.

The Gillette News Record (https://bit.ly/19nWwQh ) obtained the investigation records through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A special prosecutor determined the former sheriff didn’t break any state laws, since there weren’t any laws addressing such conduct.

Pownall told investigators he didn’t do anything illegal, but he also feared how the situation would be received by the press if it was discovered, according to the report.

Seth Pownall was arrested Aug. 9, but the allegations of the charge being changed didn’t come out until September, when someone anonymously sent a letter about it to the county attorney’s office, a judge and the News Record.

Pownall won his primary election over one opponent and ran unopposed in the general election for House District 52.

DCI investigators didn’t ask Pownall about waiting until after the election.

Pownall couldn’t be reached for comment by the News Record or The Associated Press. His phone number wasn’t available through public listings, the state legislative website or the Campbell County sheriff’s office. A voicemail left with a number associated with his 2014 state House campaign wasn’t immediately returned. Nor was an email from the AP Thursday evening.

When interviewed by Criminal Investigation officials, Pownall said he asked a deputy to change the charge for his son but said he made it clear it was a request - not an order - and that the deputy would face no retaliation if he didn’t comply. The report, however, shows the deputy feared consequences if he didn’t go along.

Pownall said he was acting as a parent and just wanted to help his son before leaving office, according to the report.

The former sheriff also made a case that the charges should be more lenient since his son was in a running vehicle at the time of his arrest but wasn’t actually driving, the report says.

Pownall added that he had no problem going easier on people in other similar cases and that he would do the same for anyone else. He had “done this before, and as long as he was sheriff, it probably won’t be the last time,” according to the report.

Seth Pownall has been charged with driving under the influence. He has pleaded not guilty.

___

Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, https://www.gillettenewsrecord.com


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