January 29, 2009
An investigation conducted by Grand Teton National Park rangers and the U.S. Attorney’s office resulted in the felony assault conviction and a recent sentence for Michael Jay Smith of Pinedale, Wyoming. Smith was accused of assaulting a park visitor on the Moose-Wilson Road in July of 2007, and following a guilty plea to a charge of Felony Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, Smith was sentenced in federal district court on December 11, 2008. Smith’s sentence includes 18 months in federal custody, 3 years of supervised probation upon release, as well as restitution fees.
On July 20, 2007, Grand Teton National Park rangers responded to a report of a serious physical altercation on the Moose-Wilson Road. Smith apparently became impatient with a slow moving vehicle whose driver and occupants were trying to locate wildlife along this scenic country road in the southwestern portion of the park. Due to its narrow lanes and winding nature, the Moose-Wilson Road requires slow speeds, especially when the presence of wildlife causes traffic congestion. When the driver of the slow moving vehicle stopped, Smith physically and forcefully assaulted him, rendering him unconscious; Smith then fled the scene. This act of physical assault serves as an example of “road rage,” a situation more often associated with urban areas or interstate highways.
Upon the arrival of park rangers, witnesses were able to provide information about the incident. The initial investigating park ranger determined that Smith attacked the driver of the vehicle in front of him after he stopped to watch a moose on the side of the road along with other wildlife viewers. Park rangers used accounts supplied by witnesses, as well as surveillance evidence, to develop information that eventually led to the use of photographic lineups and the subsequent positive identification of Smith as the assailant.
Smith was eventually indicted by a federal grand jury in March of 2008 and arrested on a federal warrant in the town of Jackson without incident. He was recently sentenced in mid December 2008.
A successful investigation and federal prosecution of this case resulted from the combined law enforcement work of several park rangers, as well as to the invaluable assistance provided by the U.S. Attorney’s office.