SUBLETTE COUNTY – Because the judge did not clearly explain to Nicolas A. Leyva at his Oct. Oct. 6 arraignment that he could pair his not-guilty pleas with reasons of mental illness or deficiency, Leyva was allowed to do so at his Oct. 28 hearing.
At the end, 9th District Judge Marv Tyler immediately suspended the court proceedings and ordered a Wyoming State Hospital evaluation.
His attorney Alex Freeburg told Judge Tyler that Leyva had wanted to make those pleas initially but didn’t understand the process.
The judge said, “It’s the defendant’s right to determine what sort of defense he may want to present. I want to make sure any change of plea or additional plea is the defendant’s choice.”
Leyva is charged with felonies of second-degree attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault and battery and strangulation of a household member, plus misdemeanors of domestic battery, property and breach of peace.
He was arrested Aug. 31 after he and his husband Dr. Buck Wallace talked amicably about divorce and Leyva allegedly destroyed his phone, attacked Wallace and tried to strangle him, according to earlier testimony by Sublette County Detective Travis Lanning.
Freeburg referred to Lanning’s testimony at Leyva’s preliminary hearing that Leyva might have consumed Seroquel, a powerful antipsychotic prescribed to Wallace.
“My client was taking Seroquel at the advice of the alleged victim,” Freeburg said, and was “incompetent at the time of the (Aug. 31) incident” but Leyva is competent now.
Sublette County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Clayton Melinkovich objected to Freeburg’s references to Seroquel on Oct. 6 and Oct. 28.
Judge Tyler said he needed a “showing of good cause” and would allow Freeburg to try to establish it “but I don’t know if I can rely on testimony in the preliminary hearing.”
Freeburg said Leyva was disappointed after his arraignment. Judge Tyler said he outlined plea options separately –“I did not expressly say he could do both.”
“The defendant intended to make the plea but for reasons not disclosed he did not,” the judge said. “I believe good cause has been shown.”
After Leyva pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness to each charge, Judge Tyler immediately suspended the case and trial proceedings and ordered Leyva to undergo a mental evaluation. It would be up to Wyoming State Hospital staff to determine when, where and how, he added.