A jury has been selected in the criminal sexual assault trial of Tony S. Cercy, of Casper.
Cercy is accused of one count each of first, second, and third degree sexual assault. The charges stem from an June 2017 incident, wherein a 20-year-old Natrona County Woman claims that Cercy sexually assaulted her. The alleged victim claiming that Cercy performed oral sex on her while she was intoxicated and unconscious.
The final jury, made up of 12 jurors and 2 alternates, is comprised of 7 women and 7 men.
34 people were summoned from a larger pool of potentials, and were questioned directly by members of both the defense and prosecution. The proceedings were overseen by Natrona County District Judge Daniel Forgey.
Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonnigen questioned the potential jurors first, asking about several subjects including their personal knowledge of the case, personal relationships with those involved in the case, and the potential jurors experience with cases involving sexual assault. Blonnigen also asked the potential jurors about the credibility of witnesses who were intoxicated at the time of the incident.
Some jurors, when discussing their experience with sexual assault, were able to address the court and attorneys, while at the bench, and away from the listening courtroom audience.
Pamela Mackey, a Colorado attorney representing Cercy’s defense team, also raised questions about credibility of witnesses, and the overall presumption of innocence. From this Mackey raised specific points about the recent #MeToo movement which has seen several high profile people accused of sexual assault.
Both attorneys also addressed the potential jurors about media coverage of the case, and their exposure to such. One potential juror saying that he was a high school social studies teacher and that reading the news was “what I do.” The man then said that, if selected, he would be able to give the case a clean slate, and make a decision based on courtroom evidence and discount any pre-trial publicity.
Cercy, who was involved in his family’s purchase and reopening of several area buildings and businesses, including The Wonder Bar, The Pump Room, and The Branding Iron, which all operate under the “C85” banner and are said to be overseen by Cercy’s son.
During his initial comments, Blonnigen mentioned that Cercy was a man of means, and that some people may believe that the justice system works differently for people who have a lot of money. The comment was not verbally responded to, but did prompt some non-verbal reaction from the pool. Mackey followed up on this point, asking some members of the pool why they reacted they way they did. One potential juror expressing that he believed poor people were incarcerated more often, but that situations had to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
Two potential jurors were excused, for cause, after expressing to the court that they were individuals over age 70, and were unsure if they could handle the rigors of a planned six-day sexual assault trial. Another potential juror was excused after telling the court that he had a major medical procedure soon, and was undergoing lab preliminary appointments, currently.
Two other potential jurors were dismissed after a private meeting at the bench, with representatives of both teams.
Another potential juror was dismissed after saying that his teenaged daughter had found his jury questionnaire and had expressed strong feelings about the case to him, before he was able to explain that he couldn’t discuss the case. Following that dismissal, another juror expressed concern over serving, saying that his employer had a professional relationship with Cercy, and that he and other employees had “pretty much made up our mind.” That potential juror was also dismissed.
The jury was selected at about 4:00, and was sworn in at about 4:10 pm. Judge Forgey gave the jurors preliminary instructions, and then allowed them to leave the courtroom at about 4:20 pm.
The jury in this case will not be sequestered.
Court was adjourned at around 4:30 pm, and is scheduled to reconvene at 9:30 am, Tuesday morning, where the jury is expected to hear opening arguments in the case. The trial is currently set to wrap up Tuesday, February 20th.