Kenneth “Val” Geissler of Cody has been prohibited from having contact with any juveniles since September, when he was charged with forcibly kissing a 17-year-old girl and trying to get her to sleep with him.
However, authorities allege that, while free on bond and awaiting a trial last month, the 79-year-old Geissler brought a different, 16-year-old girl with him to a Bible study and a church service. Although that girl’s parents had given Geissler permission to have contact with their daughter, District Court Judge Bill Simpson had specifically prohibited Geissler from having contact with the 16-year-old.
Geissler was arrested on the alleged bond violation Thursday night and put back in jail; he remained in custody on Monday.
At a Friday court hearing, a “frustrated” Judge Simpson ruled that, if Geissler is released on bond again, he’ll face tighter restrictions — and the judge recommended that Geissler be supervised by a bondsman via an ankle monitor.
“I don’t know how much clearer I could have made it last time, when I said you’re not to have any contact with any minors, whether they be young boys or girls,” Simpson said.
Tim Blatt, Geissler’s defense attorney, said his nearly 80-year-old client hadn’t understood the judge’s orders as it related to the 16-year-old girl, but “certainly now understands that the no contact with any minor ... includes the person in question.”
Blatt added that there’s no indication Geissler acted inappropriately with the 16-year-old.
Meanwhile, Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric described himself as “very concerned” with the new allegations, which date back to church gatherings on Feb. 15 and 17.
“Here it’s alleged that he’s [Geissler] having contact with a 16-year-old female while out on bond for the very charges involving a juvenile female,” Skoric said.
In the underlying case, Geissler stands charged with a felony count of promoting prostitution and a misdemeanor count of unlawful contact, relating to his alleged interactions with the 17-year-old girl last year.
An investigation by the Cody Police Department and Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation found evidence that Geissler had sent the teen detailed, sexually explicit letters that explained how she could serve clients as a “whore,” repeatedly encouraged her to pay off a debt to him with sex, French kissed her and told her not to tell anyone about their interactions, among other allegations.
In court on Friday, Skoric noted that Geissler had reportedly known the 17-year-old girl through church — drawing a connection to the 16-year-old he reportedly brought to church last month.
“The state is concerned …, and rightfully so, with safety — and certainly the safety of juvenile females in this county and elsewhere,” Skoric said.
Geissler has been free on a $25,000 cash bond since shortly after his early September arrest. On Friday, Skoric asked that Geissler’s bond be doubled to $50,000, while Blatt asked it remain at $25,000.
Simpson opted to set Geissler’s bond at $50,000 cash or surety. That means Geissler could actually put up less money than before to post a surety bond — likely around $5,000 — but would be subject to the oversight of a bondsman.
Blatt, the defense attorney, suggested a surety bond might be an unnecessary expense for his client, but Simpson said he would prefer having a bondsman involved, including to track Geissler’s whereabouts.
The judge also placed further restrictions on Geissler, should he make bail.
From now on, Geissler is prohibited from interacting with any minors while the case is pending; the lone exception is his grandson, and all contact with him must be in the presence of Geissler’s wife, the judge said. If Geissler sees a juvenile at church or another public place, “you are to walk away; you are to always keep a safe and reasonable distance” from any minors, Simpson said.
The judge also ruled that Geissler can no longer travel outside the state for work, limiting his trips to Montana for medical appointments only. Geissler is a well-known horseman, singer and cowboy poet.
Friday’s hearing lasted more than an hour and 15 minutes, in part because Geissler was given some time to privately visit with Blatt, who appeared by phone, but mostly because Simpson spent an unusual amount of time reiterating and explaining the bond conditions.
“... Apparently, whatever I said to you [last time], it didn’t resonate and you didn’t fully understand,” Simpson said at the start of the discussion. “So let me make this absolutely clear, OK: … you’re not to have any contact with any minors under the age of 18 — boy, girl; with family, not with family; at church, not in church; anywhere, anytime. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, sir,” Geissler said.
“Because if you come back before this court, and you’ve had contact with a minor, you’ll be jailed immediately,” Simpson said, “and I’m going to put your bond at $500,000, OK? Cash.”
“Yes, sir,” Geissler said.
“Because,” the judge said, “this is a serious charge.”
A trial is tentatively scheduled for June 12. Blatt had said in a January filing that he and the county’s attorney’s office were “attempting to work out a possible plea agreement.”