GREEN RIVER — This afternoon a jury convicted a Green River man of burglary, theft and property destruction stemming from an incident at Hager Industries west of Rock Springs in October 2019.
Jonathon Blair, 27, could face up to 20 years and $20,000 in fines for the felony burglary and theft charges when he’s sentenced at a later date. Property destruction is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and a $750 fine.
Blair was found guilty of breaking into Hager Industries on the night of October 17, 2019 in which $16,000 was stolen from the desk of owner Nathan Hager. He had been an employee of the company but was leaving to take a new job in Casper a few days after the incident.
Nathan Hager testified that Blair had worked for the company once before, and then got rehired back in the fall of 2019. He said Blair asked him for a loan in October but Hager refused to lend him money.
Nathan Hager owns a second business, Wind River CBD, and had a bank bag of cash from that business on hand at the Hager Industries office. He testified that he had closed his Wind River CBD account at Wells Fargo because the bank forbids business with companies associated with the hemp industry.
Hager said only three other employees knew where he kept the bank bag, and only one other employee was paid in sales commission from Wind River CBD. However, none of three other employees were interviewed during the investigation because “the evidence was pointing us in another direction,” according to Detective Michelle Hall of the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Department.
Mountain View resident Neal Sidwell also testified that Blair contacted him about a dirt bike Sidwell posted for sale on Facebook just days after the break in. Sidwell said Blair had the cash in hand and was ready to make a deal.
During her closing statement, Sweetwater County Deputy Attorney Hillary McKinney questioned why Blair needed a loan from Hager a few days before the burglary, then had cash readily available to purchase a dirt bike the next week.
On the night of the crime, Hager security cameras picked up an unidentified person entering and leaving the facility when no other employees were at the site. A broken office window, a lobby security camera turned toward the ceiling, and damage to Hager’s desk were discovered during an investigation the next day.
But perhaps the most incriminating evidence against Blair was discovered on the Hager wifi router. A media access control (MAC) address connected with the router that matched Blair’s number at 10:52 p.m. and then disconnected at 11:15 p.m.
Detective Hall said DNA evidence taken from the broken window seal matched Blair’s after a “buckle swab” was taken from him the next day. Blair told investigators he had been at the Wild Horse Saloon in Green River playing in his pool league, but a text message to his girlfriend phone implied that he was somewhere else.
Defense attorney Alex Breckenridge said the state didn’t proof its case beyond a reasonable doubt because “circumstantial evidence” wasn’t enough to convict his client.
He argued that Blair had no idea where Hager hid the money, and he wondered why none of the three other people who knew where the money was hidden were even interviewed.
Breckenridge also asked the jury to consider why Blair would break a window to get into the facility when he had a key to the front door. He said evidence showed that only one minute elapsed between the time the lobby camera was turned to the ceiling and a person was seen outside on the surveillance camera.
“Whoever did this and was able to pull this off in one minute knew exactly where to find the money,” Breckenridge said.
But McKinney said Blair didn’t use his key because of the lobby security camera pointing at the door. She also said the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence “is a classification,” and the technological evidence against Blair was overwhelming.
Third District Court Judge Suzannah Robinson refused Breckenridge’s request to allow Blair to remain free. She said his bond has expired in the case and a presentence investigation will be prepared before sentencing takes place at a later date.