Casper man changes plea, must wait for sentence

Courtesy mugshot

SUBLETTE COUNTY – A Casper man charged with four cocaine felonies almost two years ago pleaded “no contest” to two of them May 25 but can’t be sentenced until he undergoes a pre-sentence risk and needs assessment.

Jay Van Wagoner had pleaded not guilty to two felonies of delivery of cocaine and two felonies of cocaine possession after Sublette County detectives used a “confidential source” to set up two drug buys with him.

Public defender Rachel Weksler, Van Wagoner and deputy county attorney Adrian Kowalski had agreed that Van Wagoner would change his pleas to not guilty or no contest for one delivery charge and one possession charge. Weksler and Kowalski also agreed to make separate sentencing recommendations to 9th District Judge Kate McKay.

Kowalksi could recommend two 7- to 10-year terms, possibly suspended with options; Weksler was free to argue for lighter penalties including application to and completion of an Adult Community Corrections program.

But – without the risk and needs assessment portion of the pre-sentence investigation report, the ACC program and other options might not be available as outlined in the plea agreement.

“With the broad range of sentences, it’s quite important to have (the assessment) before the court,” Judge McKay said.

Kowalski agreed there was a broad range of options for the court to consider.

If Van Wagoner changed his pleas at the May 25 hearing, he might not be able to withdraw from the plea agreement while waiting for the risk assessment, they discussed.

“I don’t know if the risk assessment controls (Van Wagoner’s) ability to enter ACC,” the judge said. She told the defendant she didn’t know what might happen if he changed his pleas that day and his assessment showed him to be a high risk.

However, Van Wagoner said he wanted to plead “no contest” then and there.

“I will not be sentencing you today,” Judge McKay said. She accepted his pleas and noted she received the PSI report on April 27 with one revision.

Kowalski said probation agent Jeanne Whinnery could do the needed risk and needs assessment “this week or next.”

Judge McKay ordered it to be completed and distributed within 14 days and she would set a new sentencing hearing. She reminded Van Wagoner that it is “extremely important” for him to continue to follow his bond and release terms until then.