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Opening statements reveal contrasting narratives in Testerman trial

Laramie County Governmental Complex is inlaid with a photo of Gabriel Testerman. (Laramie County Sheriff's Office)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The trial of former Wyoming Highway Patrol Sergeant Gabriel Testerman started with opening statements that painted starkly different pictures of the events leading to his arrest. The prosecution and defense outlined their cases in the courtroom, focusing on two alleged incidents of assault.

Opening Statements

The prosecution began by describing two separate incidents of sexual intrusion, one occurring in April 2022 and the other in July 2021. The state portrayed Testerman as a man leading a double life — an esteemed officer on one hand, and a perpetrator of sexual assault on the other.

The narrative included a broken friendship and a distressing call for help during the assault of Chelsea Buckholtz, with clothing torn and left in disarray across Testerman’s house. The other, an end to Frontier Days festivities with the accuser passed out from drinking and bound and assaulted while unconscious, culminating in the end of the relationship between Testerman and his accuser.

The defense’s opening statement countered the prosecution’s claims by insisting that the sexual encounters were consensual. They highlighted the confusion faced by Testerman following a phone call made by Buckholtz to Michael Mills during one of the encounters.

The defense argued that Buckholtz had willingly gone to Testerman’s house, was not impaired and had multiple opportunities to leave. They pointed to post-incident text conversations that allegedly showed no confrontation or accusation towards Testerman.

Emphasizing the absence of concrete evidence and perceived investigative lapses, the defense questioned the credibility of the charges.

Questions Looking Ahead

Notably, the opening remarks from both sides focused only on two alleged assaults, while Testerman faces three counts. A motion by the defense to sever one of the assault counts was denied in March 2023, yet the prosecution’s emphasis on two specific incidents leaves unanswered questions about the third count.

The day ended with the judge clearing the court of the public to discuss an issue under Wyoming Statute 6-2-312, which relates to the introduction of evidence of the victim’s prior sexual conduct. The trial is set to reconvene at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan 30. A live broadcast of the trial can be found here.

Background of the Case

The court set aside five days for the proceedings. The trial, marked by multiple continuations and sealed documents, aims to maintain fairness and protect those involved, according to Judge Campbell, who agreed to seal multiple files in the case.

Testerman’s arrest on Aug. 30, 2022, came as a result of an investigation led by the Cheyenne Police Department. The charges against him include three counts of inflicting sexual intrusion on a victim.

The WHP, having been notified of the investigation on May 2, 2022, acted swiftly by placing Testerman on administrative leave.

“The trooper was immediately removed from service and placed on administrative leave pending the investigation,” an earlier press release by the WHP states.

This trial has encountered several delays, initially scheduled for Jan. 10, 2023, then postponed to March 13 and again to Aug. 28. The latest continuation, decided on Aug. 2, has led to the current Jan. 29, 2024, start date.