Man faces 60 years in abuse of four girls in Gillette and other news from around the state

Antler company owner pleads guilty to illegally taking antlers

JACKSON (WNE) — A former Jackson resident and antler-dealing businessman has been prosecuted for taking hundreds of pounds of cut-up elk horn that was illegally gathered and hidden on closed wildlife winter range.

Great American Antler Company owner Joshua Anders Rae, 35, pleaded guilty last week to possessing and transporting 104 pounds of elk antler that had been sawed into dog chew-size hunks and buried in caches at the base of trees. Authorities discovered another 410 pounds of antler Rae is presumed to have cached after plucking antlers from seasonally closed portions of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the National Elk Refuge.

That collective poundage of elk antler — valued at nearly $10,000 based on recent Jackson auction pricing — was recovered in 2016. It took three years for Rae’s case to be adjudicated, but on June 17 he pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Shickich at a federal courthouse in Casper. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service publicized the case in a press release the following week, describing the sentence that resulted from a sealed plea bargain as five years of unsupervised probation, a five-year revocation of hunting and fishing privileges, $15,000 in fines and a five-year ban from Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and the refuge.

Other details of the Rae case, including how law enforcement officers caught him, are unusually murky. Repeated interview requests with the National Elk Refuge law enforcement officer who helped make the case have been declined, dating back to this spring.


Man faces 60 years in abuse of four girls

GILLETTE (WNE) — A Gillette man who sexually abused four girls was sentenced Monday to up to 60 years in prison.

Rene “Bishop” Nava Jr., 40, said he had no explanation for his actions and that he agreed with whatever sentence he was given.

“I can’t say I’m sorry enough,” he told District Judge Thomas W. Rumpke.

Nava had pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, two of which had been reduced from first-degree sexual abuse of a minor as part of a plea agreement. In exchange, prosecutors dropped seven other counts of first-degree sexual abuse. The molestations happened over a seven-year period.

As part of the plea agreement, Campbell County Attorney Ronald E. Wirthwein Jr. recommended sentences of seven to 15 years in prison for each of the four counts, to be served consecutively.

Because of the seriousness of the crimes, Rumpke went against the plea agreement and lengthened the minimum sentences, saying a minimum of seven years was a little too lenient.

He sentenced Nava to 10 to 15 years on one count and nine to 15 years on each of the three others.

“You need to be deterred from doing this again,” Rumpke told Nava, adding that in sexual abuse cases, the young victims — whether female or male — never get over the crimes.

“I see these young women who are victimized by this … and it’s ruinous,” Rumpke said. “They are broken because they can’t trust anyone.”


Judge rejects plea deal in assault case

LARAMIE (WNE) — According to a plea deal in his felony case, Noah Munoz shouldn’t have gone to jail on Tuesday. The 30-year-old Laramie man, who was being sentenced for an aggravated assault and battery conviction, should have been a free man beginning anger management classes and returning to his job helping complete Grand Avenue’s roadwork.

Instead, Munoz was hauled away from the Albany County district courtroom in handcuffs after Judge Tori Kricken decided to override the plea agreement that called only for probation. That agreement had been hashed out by his defense attorney, Charles Pelkey, and a former prosecutor who no longer works in the Albany County Attorney’s Office.

And while the plea deal calls for the prosecution to agree for probation at sentencing, County Attorney Peggy Trent wasn’t enthusiastic in asking Kricken to uphold the terms of the plea deal. 

Munoz was charged with the felony after he approached a stranger during a graduation party at the Laramie Ice & Events Center, punching him in the face, which rendered the man unconscious on May 28, 2018.

Munoz later told the police the victim had a history of sexually assaulting women. He said he was upset the sexual assaults were not reported and he did not feel anyone would do anything about them.

Pelkey told Kricken on Tuesday that while Munoz now acknowledges that “any form of vigilantism is inappropriate,” the fact the assault came from what Munoz believed was “a noble reason” should still be a mitigating factor.

After the attack last spring, Laramie Police Department officer Weston Kelly was called to Ivinson Memorial Hospital after the blow to the victim’s head resulted in stitches, a concussion, a broken jaw and a few broken teeth.