Paul Rivers apologized Monday for a death threat he made in November at Town Hall that landed him in the Teton County Jail.
“I apologize if I scared anyone for my stupid action,” Rivers said during his sentencing Monday morning in Teton County Circuit Court. “I was just trying to get an inspection, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbled that day.”
Town of Jackson attorney Lea Colasuonno said Rivers is hardly taking responsibility for what he did, and because of that Rivers should receive more punishment than just an anger management class.
“Just a 12-hour anger management course is insufficient,” Colasuonno said.
She said the defendant’s stunt lowered the public’s trust in local government and decreased “the safety of our facilities.”
Rivers, 67, a longtime Jackson resident and general contractor, showed up at Town Hall in November 2019 with a bone to pick. Upset with Jackson’s building and planning departments, he walked into the police department — just downstairs from the other departments — and said, “You might want to get an officer upstairs because I might kill someone!” according to court documents.
Rivers was promptly arrested for felony terroristic threatening and disruptive conduct within governmental facilities, a misdemeanor. The felony was dismissed in a plea agreement presented in February that promised to dismiss the felony as long as Rivers enrolled in anger management.
On Monday, defense attorney Bill Fix said his client had completed 12 hours of anger management.
“Paul successfully completed a course and did the testing,” Fix said. “He got two wrong out of 12 tests.”
Judge James Radda accepted the plea agreement, but not before underscoring the seriousness of making threats.
“There have been so many mass shootings over the last few years,” Radda said. “The fear that must have been struck in those government employees had to be just appalling.”
Radda said everyone who works in public buildings has a right to feel safe when they’re there.
“Especially in a place like Teton County, Wyoming,” Radda said. “We are community-oriented people, and what motivates someone to continue in public service is the feeling they are contributing to the community. To have something like this happen here, it is startling and it is upsetting beyond belief.”
Radda said members of the public who visit or do business in local government buildings also have a right to feel safe.
“Those people need to be safe, and something like this will give them pause and [cause them to] think about whether they are safe,” Radda said, “and that is a terrible thing to have done to the community, Mr. Rivers.”
Rivers was sentenced to 60 days in jail suspended, meaning he won’t serve time. He was also ordered to have no contact with Jackson building inspectors and was banned from Town Hall.