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Man gets two-week sentence for March fight in Riverton

Jul 11, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

A Hudson man will spend two weeks in jail for punching a Riverton man and fracturing the victim's skull in March outside of Bomber's Sports Bar.

James Edward Crooks, 24, of Hudson, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless endangerment in connection with the incident. His sentence is part of a plea deal with prosecutors that was accepted by Wyoming 9th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt during an arraignment Tuesday in Riverton Circuit Court.

The plea agreement called for 180 days of jail time, with 163 days suspended. Crooks has been credited with three days in jail, so he will spend a total of 14 days more in custody.

Crooks requested to begin his sentence at 9 a.m. Saturday. The judge accepted the request, and Crooks will begin his jail time on that day.

The agreement also requires Crooks to pay $40 in court costs and $150 for victim compensation. He is not supposed to have any contact with his victim, Darryn Davis, 24, of Riverton.

As part of the plea agreement, Crooks's lawyer Scott Stinson asked that the bond paid on behalf of Crooks be returned. He also requested that travel be permitted for employment purposes and that the district court case against Crooks be dismissed. On Tuesday, Wyoming 9th District Court judge Norman E. Young accepted a motion to dismiss two other charges against Crooks -- battery and aggravated assault and battery -- that had been bound over to district court in March. Those charges together carry a maximum penalty of 10.5 years in prison and a fine of $10,750.

The original charge of "aggravated assault and battery" alleged that Crooks caused serious bodily injury to another person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. The other original charge of "battery" alleges Crooks intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to another person by use of physical force.

Both parties also agreed that restitution claims would not be pursued.

March incident

Court documents state Crooks punched Davis in the face at about 1:20 a.m. March 9 outside of Bomber's Sports Bar in Riverton. Riverton police officers said Crooks had left the scene when they arrived. The officers said they found Davis "lying supine" on the ground with "obvious severe trauma to his face."

Davis was transported to Riverton Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper to be treated for bleeding inside his skull and a fracture to his eye socket.

Fremont County deputy attorney Patrick J. LeBrun outlined the events of March 9 to explain the diminishment of charges.

After Davis struck the first punch, LeBrun said, no further assault occurred as Davis remained on the ground.

"According to hospital documents he suffered non-life-threatening injuries," LeBrun said.

Because of that determination, LeBrun said the plea agreement was appropriate in this case. He said it was not an aggravated assault and Davis was only put at risk for serious bodily injury.

Joseph Alberts, a witness interviewed who was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident, said Davis's posture and gestures indicated that he was getting ready to engage in a fight. The witness said Davis looked upset and punched a nearby vehicle.

Davis was present at the arraignment Tuesday.

"I don't feel like justice is being served, I'm not in agreement with this," Davis said when he was given the opportunity to speak. "I spent a week in the hospital feeling like I was fighting for my life; I guess it is what it is."

Crooks responded that he was "sympathetic" to what he put Davis through. The men have known each other since they were younger, Crooks said.

Davis left before the arraignment ended, but Denhardt said he would have let Davis respond again or discuss the restitution decision. He also said the court requested restitution figures twice from Davis, but none was received.

Not a hate crime

Complaints against the Riverton Police Department previously accused officers of taking too long to arrest Crooks.

Witnesses also claimed they heard racial slurs at some point during the incident. Davis's mother is Northern Arapaho and his father is African American.

The U.S. Attorney's office reviewed the case and determined that it was not a hate crime.

"This evidently has been a very public notorious case in Riverton," Denhardt said. "(People) have a right to speak their mind, (but) judges aren't supposed to sentence on community motions -- they're supposed to sentence on the facts."

Staff writer Eric Blom contributed to this report

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