Embattled Cody lawmaker ousted by voters

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Made first court appearance Tuesday on theft allegations

Cody area Republicans ousted embattled lawmaker Sam Krone in Tuesday’s primary election.

Krone, a three-term legislator, received only 26.6 percent of the vote (502 votes) in House District 24. His Republican challenger, former auditor Scott Court, collected 67.2 percent (1,269 votes) of the vote.

The other 6.2 percent of Republican voters wrote in someone else.

Court now advances to November’s general election, where he’ll face Democrat Paul Fees and — assuming she can collect around 60 signatures by next week — independent candidate Sandy Newsome.

Court’s convincing victory came despite little campaigning.

“I decided to let it be based on what people thought of (Krone),” Court told the Cody Enterprise on Wednesday.

Krone said in a Wednesday statement to the Tribune that, “I very much respect the decision of the voters.” He said he’d been honored to serve the people of Park County in the Legislature for the past 5 1/2 years.

“I intend on finishing this term in a strong and productive manner and I look forward to serving the community as a private citizen in the future,” Krone said.

The loss was the latest in a series of setbacks for Krone.

In the middle of the Legislature’s February budget session, Krone was fired from his job as a Park County prosecutor for sending a series of crude, demeaning and improper text messages in which he taunted a longtime friend about her pending DUI case that was being handled by another attorney in his office. Then, on July 29, the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office charged Krone with three felony and four misdemeanor counts of theft or larceny; they allege Krone stole more than $9,600 from the Park County Bar Association between 2010 and 2013.

Krone made his first appearance on the theft allegations on Tuesday.

Krone participated in the Circuit Court proceeding not at the prosecutors’ table — where he sat for 12 years as a prosecutor — but at the defendant’s table. He was allowed to remain free on a $10,000 signature bond while the case is pending.

“Obviously, we want to treat this case as we do any other case,” Supervising Attorney General Mike Causey said in making the recommendation. Causey, who appeared by phone from Cheyenne, said that bond amount was in line with a recent criminal case brought against the former Albany County Attorney.

Krone and his defense attorney — fellow state Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie — didn’t object.

“Now, Mr. Krone, I know you know what that means, but it’s a bond that you don’t have to post any money, but if you violate the terms of this bond in any ... fashion, that could be forfeited to the state after a hearing,” Circuit Court Judge Thomas Harrington explained at Tuesday’s hearing.

Just as he would for any other defendant, Harrington went over Krone’s rights and the potential consequences of a felony conviction — including losing the right to vote or hold public office.

A preliminary hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence for Krone to be tried on the charges was tentatively set for Aug. 31.

In a Friday appearance on KODI-AM’s “Speak Your Piece,” Krone reiterated his surprise at having been criminally charged over the embezzlement allegations and said he would “have a vigorous defense” that would ultimately exonerate him.

Jim Vanaman, who previously served on the Cody City Council with Krone, called in to “Speak Your Piece” and said he found it “very, very strange” that Krone had been charged so close to the election.

“That’s exactly what I think, too, Jim,” Krone responded. “The timing is just completely crazy and it’s ... yeah, I’ll just leave it at that. It seems suspicious.”

Charging documents say the money was found to be missing in April, when the local bar association’s president obtained a statement of the organization’s checking account. The accounts, authorities allege, had been solely controlled by Krone since 2008.

On KODI, Krone had asked voters to look at his entire record and pitched his seniority in the state House; he suggested that if he was re-elected, he could become the chairman of either the House Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee or the Judiciary Committee.

“I think if you’ve got some institutional knowledge, if you’ve actually been effective and gotten things done, I think it makes sense to hang in to the race,” Krone had said. “I can understand some voters’ concerns, but the fact is these are allegations; I’m contesting them and moving forward with the election.”

In his Friday call to “Speak Your Piece,” Vanaman predicted Krone would probably win the primary.

“Nobody knows this guy,” Vanaman said of Scott Court.

In contrast, Cody resident Dewey Vanderhoff had called in earlier to tell Krone that, despite not knowing Krone’s opponent, he’d be voting for him.

“You’re not running against him, Sam. You’re running against yourself, and you’re going to lose and it’s unfortunate. But this is a really, really tall hill for you to get up and over,” Vanderhoff told Krone. “It comes down not to what you want to do in the House, what you’ve done there before. It has to do with character and integrity ...”

The criminal charges appear to have impacted the race.

After the case was filed and publicized, "We got calls from several registered voters that had turned in their absentees, requesting their ballots back," said Park County Election Deputy Park County Teecee Barrett.

Krone received 33.2 percent of the vote on absentee ballots cast before Election Day versus just 24 percent on Tuesday.

In early August, several days after Krone was charged with the theft allegations, Sandy Newsome attended a meeting of the Legislature’s Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee. As she visited with some of the lawmakers and tourism officials there, “We got to talking about what was going on up here and we just thought that our representation could be better,” Newsome said.

She has until Aug. 29 to turn in her signatures to make the ballot.

Newsome is a Republican and said she and her husband supported Krone in the past. However, “I think the whole distraction of everything he’s going through at this time would make him a less-effective legislator,” she said of running for the seat.

Voters apparently had concerns of their own, supporting Court by more than two to one.

Since being fired from the Park County Attorney’s Office, Krone has been independently practicing law as the Krone Law Office — though he said on KODI that, as of Friday, “I’m just trying to deal with the campaign more than anything else.”

Like Court, Krone had done little public campaigning.

Both the criminal allegations and the crude text messages that led to his February firing could subject Krone to discipline from the Wyoming Bar Association.

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