Ray pleads guilty to battery resulting in injury to a minor
SUBLETTE COUNTY — Certified physician assistant (PA-C) Jason Lee Ray changed his plea from "not guilty" to "guilty" of battery resulting in bodily injury to a minor in Sublette County Circuit Court Monday morning. Three other misdemeanor charges against him, including two additional counts of battery and reckless endangering, were dropped as part of a plea deal struck with county attorney Mike Crosson.
Ray, who said he recently tested positive for COVID-19, appeared before 9th Judicial District Court Judge Curt Haws via videoconference from his home in Boulder.
Judge Haws told Ray that he is "a valued and valuable member of the community, but it appears (he has) an issue he needs to address" before stating he was pleased to see the terms of the plea deal include Ray agreeing to undergo an anger management evaluation.
In addition to anger management, the judge imposed a 180-day jail sentence, with 178 days suspended, requiring Ray to serve two consecutive days in jail sometime between now and Nov. 8.
Ray was also sentenced to six months unsupervised probation.
He was ordered to pay $1,671.67 in restitution to the minor victim, identified only by his initials R.H., for his medical expenses and damage done to his 2001 white Dodge 1500 pickup.
Ray apologized not to his victim, but to Judge Haws, stating, "I'm sorry we're here today. I vow it will never happen again."
Referencing R.H.'s victim-impact statement, Judge Haws explained that the last time Ray was in his courtroom was two to four years ago when his testimony about following and confronting a bad driver was used to convict another man of reckless driving. The Circuit Court judge explained he would vacate that previous conviction against the unnamed man as a result of Ray's role as the defendant in the battery case.
As previously reported, sworn testimony filed in Circuit Court by Sublette County Sheriff’s Deputy and investigator Todd Morgan states that the Ray informed him that he was traveling on the upper boat dock/campground road hauling his boat after spending the day on Fremont Lake. He said he was driving slowly because of the potholes in the road when he was passed in the left lane by a 2001 white Dodge 1500 pickup truck in what Ray described as “an unsafe manner” and “at a high rate of speed.”
The juvenile driver of the pickup told law enforcement he estimated he passed Ray at 30 mph while driving in third gear.
According to court records, Ray told the investigator that when the pickup stopped at the intersection of Forest Service Road 111 and Fremont Lake Road, he pulled in behind R.H., honked his horn and then approached the driver to confront him about his unsafe driving behavior.
Ray told the deputy that the juvenile began to swing at him through the driver’s window; the alleged victim and two witnesses told officers that Ray ripped off the teen’s shirt and struck him twice in the face.
The teen reported that Ray “grabbed his left inner arm between the bicep and forearm” trying to pull him out of the vehicle. He further told law enforcement that Ray “struck him with a closed fist on his left chin and then again as his friend pulled up behind them. RH told the deputy that he “didn’t touch him (Jason Ray).”
According to court records, as R.H. was removed from the vehicle, his foot came off the clutch, causing the 2001 Dodge to roll backward into Ray’s F250.
Speaking to SCSO Deputy Morgan, Ray said he told a witness who confronted him about the driver being under the age of 18 years old, “I’ll f---ing punch you too if you want it, you know, like get the f--- out of my face.”
The deputy wrote in his report that Ray stated he “was in f---ing kill mode” while dealing with minor and the witness.
Ray’s sister, Jennifer Pedersen, was also interviewed as a witness. She told the investigator that she did not observe either party hit the other, but did not know how long the teen was out of his vehicle. When asked by Deputy Morgan if she saw Ray strike R.H., she stated, “I don’t know… he could have… he was mad, clearly.” She also reported watching the teen “peel out,” kicking up sand and gravel as he left the scene. The deputy observed “tire marks indicating the vehicle left quickly.”
Pedersen did not attend Ray's change of plea hearing on Monday.
Other witnesses, including the 15-year-old who made the 9-1-1 call, described the teen driver as “looking disoriented” and “in a state of shock” as he drove away.
The minor was breathalyzed by law enforcement and his blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.0 percent.
Ray reportedly admitted to the investigator to drinking two beers earlier that day.
Ray was initially charged for the July 9 altercation with a juvenile on July 20 and had his attorney, Travis Bing, enter pleas of "not guilty" to avoid a court appearance on July 27.
A six-person jury trial originally scheduled for Dec. 13 is canceled following Ray's change of plea.
The Pinedale Roundup reached out to Dave Doorn on behalf of the Sublette County Hospital District (SCHD), which employs Ray, for an update on his employment, but calls were not returned by press time.
Doorn previously confirmed that Ray was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation and that, “obviously this is a matter we (the board) are treating very seriously.”
Then, at the July 27 SCHD Board of Trustees’ meeting, trustee Dave Bell moved to “rescind the contract of Jason Ray previously approved by the Board on June 22, 2022 (sic). Jason Ray’s current contract will be extended for 180 days. Legal counsel will draft a new employment contract for consideration and-or approval by the board. Jason Ray’s administrative leave will continue for no less than 45 days, or until such time as the board deems appropriate.”
The motion passed unanimously. Board Chair Tonia Hoffman closed the meeting with no further comment about the ongoing personnel matter.