The Wyoming State Bar alleges former Teton County Deputy Prosecutor Becket Hinckley violated seven rules during the prosecution of Josh Black’s aggravated assault case.
Hinckley admits to violating three of those rules but is fighting the other allegations and has asked for a hearing on the matter.
In a formal charge filed Nov. 13 by Mark Gifford, bar counsel, Hinckley is accused of failing to file a response to the defendant’s motion to compel, failing to seek production of the victim’s Verizon and Facebook records, misrepresenting the extent of his efforts to obtain those records, failing to comply with the court’s order granting defendant’s motion to compel, disseminating a letter written by Black to the News&Guide and engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The Wyoming Supreme Court concluded that Hinckley committed prosecutorial misconduct during Black’s 2015 trial.
Justices said the state failed to comply with a discovery order and that Hinckley made improper comments during his closing arguments.
Black, 40, was found guilty for an October 2014 assault against his ex-girlfriend and was sentenced to life in prison because past felonies made him a habitual offender under Wyoming statute.
The Wyoming Supreme Court awarded Black a new trial in 2017, but the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office, represented by Steve Weichman at the time, offered Black a plea deal about this time last year.
He’s at the Wyoming Honor Farm with March 1 parole eligibility.
The formal charge by the state bar against Hinckley is a civil matter and was filed with the Board of Professional Responsibility.
The 27-page complaint says if Hinckley had followed the court’s orders, vital records would have been recovered.
“If Hinckley had acted promptly in complying with Judge Day’s August 2015 order compelling production of the Facebook/Verizon records, it appears that the deleted texts and photos could have been recovered,” Gifford states in the record.
Gifford states that Hinckley told the court those online records weren’t available after 90 days based on an assumption when those records would have been available for 365 days.
“Hinckley violated rule 3.3 by misrepresenting the extent of his efforts to obtain the Verizon and Facebook records,” Gifford wrote.
In the complaint, Gifford asked that the Board of Professional Responsibility conduct a disciplinary hearing into the allegations of misconduct, directly impose or recommend that the Wyoming Supreme Court impose “appropriate discipline,” and order Hinckley to reimburse the State Bar for all costs.
In Hinckley’s answer filed Tuesday afternoon, his attorney Stephen Kline states that his client’s comments that were deemed improper were not an attack on Black’s defense counsel.
“Respondent further acknowledges that [victim’s] Facebook posts and Verizon records were never copied in full,” the answer states. “He denies that there was any relevant information that was not copied by the Teton County Sheriff’s Office.”
A hearing has not yet been set in the matter; it will likely take place in Cheyenne next year.
Hinckley resigned from the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office in January.
The former Cheyenne district attorney and state legislator joined the criminal division of the county attorney’s office in 2013 to prosecute misdemeanors and felonies. He’s had a license to practice law in Wyoming since 2000.