A Powell, Wyoming-based family, operating a ranch intended to aid troubled teens, has launched a legal bid to dismiss a federal lawsuit against them related to disturbing child-labor allegations. The Schneider family’s defense counsel contends that the accusations of child labor and human trafficking lack substantive connections to actual incidents.
The operation, Triangle Cross Ranch, is a 50,000-acre working cattle ranch that operated with 1,000 head of cattle. Troubled youth ages 10 to 17 worked on the ranch that, according to their social media account, “Offered clients an opportunity to engage with livestock and other ranch activities as a means to educate the mind, body, and elevate the spirit of the struggling teen. By combining the ‘Paternal Teachings’ of St. John Bosco with the western ‘cowboy’ code of ethics.”
A link to the program leads you to the rebranded Sunlight Mountain Cattle Ranch.
According to Cowboy State Daily, a recent court filing by owner Jerry Schneider, his wife, sons, and son-in-law highlights the absence of specific allegations against any named defendant.
Sources indicate that the owners stress that participants in their program are enrolled with explicit parental consent and comprehensive disclosure regarding the demanding nature of the program and ranch chores.
Andrew Lewis and Andrew Unhruh, former residents of Triangle Cross Ranch in 2014, filed a lawsuit in October 2023, alleging that the Schneider family and the ranch violated federal regulations by imposing rigorous work and engaging in trafficking practices.
Allegations ranged from threats of food and sleep deprivation to confinement in a shed, restricted communication, and extensive ranch chores.
Lewis’ and Unhruh’s plea also includes reimbursement, which the Schneiders have refuted, saying that the fees would belong to the plaintiff’s parents, who paid for their children’s camp enrollment and subsequent attendance.
The Schneiders counter these claims in their legal response, characterizing them as speculative and exaggerated. They argue that Lewis and Unhruh have failed to establish a clear link between their legal claims and specific actions by individuals.
The filing casts doubt on the feasibility of Lewis accomplishing exhaustive chores within a restricted time frame and questions the credibility of the allegations.
Furthermore, the ranch owners dispute the assertions of forced labor, emphasizing that the participation of these teenagers was sanctioned by their parents or guardians, who retained the authority to withdraw them at any time. They portray the complaints as discontent from troubled teens who were reluctant participants but whose attendance was desired by their guardians.
The family’s legal filing challenges Lewis’ and Unhruh’s trafficking claims, asserting a lack of substantive support. They also underscore the Alzheimer’s condition of Schneider’s wife, arguing against the plausibility of her causing harm in 2014, given her mental state since 2002.
The filing argues that Lewis and Unhruh have targeted the wrong entity. They state that the LLC mentioned in the lawsuit wasn’t established until 2018, differing from the incorporated entity. that existed during the plaintiffs’ stay.
Additionally, the filing seeks to dismiss claims against specific family members, asserting that the allegations lack factual grounding and fail to demonstrate any wrongdoing.
Another lawsuit was filed in 2020 by a different set of plaintiffs, including females, against Triangle Cross Ranch and another facility. In 2022, U.S. District Court for Wyoming Chief Judge Scott Skavdahl denied the lawsuit class-action status.
Plaintiffs appealed that suit in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Another lawsuit was filed in 2020 by a third set of plaintiffs against the Triangle Cross Ranch, the Schneiders, another family member, and the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. The case was dismissed after an agreement was reached between the parties.
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