Casper Businessman Tony Cercy Asks For Change Of Venue For Sexual Assault Trial
Casper businessman Tony Cercy, who was acquitted on two charges of sexual assault in February, wants the retrial on a count of third-degree sexual assault held outside Natrona County because of negative publicity before, during and after the trial, according to a motion filed in District Court.
"Media coverage of the allegations against Mr. Cercy has been pervasive and inflammatory at every stage of this proceeding," wrote his attorneys Ian Sandefer of Casper and Pamela Mackey and Jeffrey Pagliuca of Denver in their motion filed Friday.
"Each filing and court appearance has been covered in the print media, on the radio, and broadcast on television," they wrote. "Reporters covered each day of the first trial, updating their online posts at breaks during the day and reporting live from the courthouse at multiple intervals. Nearly every print story contained a detailed report of the allegations against Mr. Cercy, including specific facts as to how he is alleged to have committed sexual assault. Multiple stories included references to inadmissible and highly inflammatory evidence. The media's repetitive recitation of unproven and unsubstantiated allegations poisoned the venire against Mr. Cercy."
Ironically, Cercy's attorneys made similar arguments that he could not receive a fair trial while requesting a change of venue before jury selection began the first day of the trial on Feb. 12.
In the new motion, they wrote, "Juror questionnaires from the first venire showed that, even before the media coverage of the first trial, the vast majority of potential jurors had been exposed to and infected by reporting on the allegations leveled against Mr. Cercy."
District Court Judge Daniel Forgey denied that requested change of venue. Jurors said they could set aside what they had read and heard, including evidence that was not allowed to be submitted at trial. Jurors subsequently acquitted Cercy of the first- and second-degree sexual assault charges.
In the motion, Cercy's attorneys also criticized District Attorney Mike Blonigen's comments after the trial that suggested the jury was strongly favor of conviction. "Notably, he cites no authority for this shameless statement that, in addition to being untrue, also violated the Court's order prohibiting disclosure of information learned during post-trial interviews with jurors."
Likewise, they criticized the constitutionality of a Wyoming law that says potential jurors cannot be challenged for cause if they have formed opinions about the guilt or innocence of a defendant if they say they can put them aside and decide a case based on the evidence presented during the trial.
"Even when jurors claim impartiality, studies show that they are more likely to believe a defendant is guilty when they have been exposed to damaging pretrial publicity," Sandefer, Mackey and Pagliuca wrote.
The attorneys want the court to not apply this Wyoming law when the jury selection begins for the third-degree sexual assault trial scheduled for Nov. 9.
In a separate motion, they asked the court to ask the prosecution for specific information about the alleged "'sexual contact'" in the amended information filed April 24 so they can prepare a defense.
The case began last summer when the alleged victim told a Natrona County Sheriff's investigator she, her boyfriend, friends and acquaintances arrived at Alcova Lake on the evening of June 23 and spend the next day at the lake. She was drinking heavily and passed out on the rear deck of a boat at Sandy Beach.
On Saturday evening, they went to another location and about 9:45 p.m. went to a residence on Cedar Drive North owned by Cercy.
She said she went into the residence, passed out on the couch in the middle of the living room, and woke up to find Cercy performing oral sex.
Nearly all of her clothing had been removed, she claimed, and Cercy was naked from the waist down, according to court records.
The alleged victim said he gave her a ride to a friend's place at the Alcova Trailer Park and threatened to kill her and himself, according to court records.
Cercy also owned a cabin on Pelican Ridge near the lake. He sold the cabin in April.