Case against retired bishop now in limbo as DA tells police he will again review investigation

The criminal investigation into retired bishop Joseph Hart has not been officially closed, Cheyenne police said Friday, after authorities realized that a prosecutor had misunderstood police files describing the allegations against the cleric.

Natrona County District Attorney Dan Itzen, who would prosecute any case against Hart, spoke with Cheyenne police officials on Friday, a spokesman for the agency said. Cheyenne police had handled the investigation into Hart and felt “very strongly” about the sexual abuse investigation into him, which police feel warrants Hart being charged. Investigators wanted an explanation from Itzen on why he wasn’t proceeding with charges, news that broke last week after a victim’s advocate from Itzen’s office called the alleged victim central to the case and told him that Hart would not be charged.

A Cheyenne police spokesman said during that Friday morning conversation, police and Itzen realized that the prosecutor had misread or misunderstood details in the affidavit of probable cause — the document that lays out the narrative of the case and the investigators’ factual basis for charging Hart.

Cheyenne police spokesman David Inman said investigators asked for the meeting to clarify information from the letter Itzen had sent police about closing the case. He said part of the misunderstanding was a difference in how law enforcement in Cheyenne and Casper handle paperwork.

“Some of the stuff we didn’t agree with,” Inman said of Itzen’s decision not to charge Hart. “We wanted clarification. While talking about (Itzen’s declining to press charges), this new information came to light. So basically it was, ‘Oh I didn’t know this and this is what you meant by this and this.’ That’s what’s causing the case to come back to life. They’re going to convene with their guys, they’re going to call the chief, and we’re going to meet again next week.”

Itzen was not immediately available for comment Friday afternoon.

Inman said that while Itzen and his office are re-examining and conferring about next steps, the case remains in limbo, neither technically open nor technically closed.

“We feel very strong on this case, and we want to do everything we can in our power, to make sure — we have probable cause,” he continued. “We want to do our best and work with Natrona (County) and t...

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