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Criminal prosecution over ‘obscene material’ sought in library squabble

A sign brought to a recent County Commission meeting demanding the library director's immediate termination over LGBTQ material and other books in the Campbell County Public Library. (RJ Morgan/County 17)

A report filed by citizens accusing leadership at the Campbell County Public Library of promoting obscene material has been forwarded on to the county attorney’s office for review, Sheriff Scott Matheny said Thursday.

The report, filed on Sept. 29 by county residents Hugh and Susan Bennett, alleges that a crime has been committed at the local library and brought in several books they said contained obscene material, according to Matheny, who said that his deputies took the report and forwarded it up the ladder to the Campbell County Attorney’s Office for consideration on potential charges.

Initially, Matheny continued, the county attorney’s office gave a verbal declination, which means they didn’t believe a crime occurred, but there has not been an official decision on paper as of Sept. 30.

Campbell County Attorney Mitch Damsky declined to comment on an ongoing criminal issue, though he confirmed the report has been received by his office and is currently being reviewed by his three brightest attorneys.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Damsky said. “Like I said, I have my best minds working on it right now and they’ll decide on whether or not it’s going to be charged.”

The report filed Wednesday by Bennett references W.S. § 6-4-302 (c) (ii), which alleges the library, through dissemination, is promoting obscene material.

Obscene material, per W.S. § 6-4-301, is defined as that which the average person would find encourages an excessive interest in sexual matters, depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

The statute referenced in Bennett’s report and the allegations made against the library on Wednesday have changed significantly from his other statements during a Campbell County Commission meeting on Sept. 28, where he, referencing a state statute, openly accused library leadership of committing sexual intrusion on minors.

“There are a lot of laws in existence that make what’s being done in this library, felony behavior,” Bennett said, adding that the commission should look up for themselves the definition of intrusion and that he was very surprised that the commission appeared to have “dug in” on the issue.

“I think that you guys should be on notice that you’re fighting a losing battle and the longer you resist, the worse it’s gonna be,” Bennett said during the meeting.