Wyoming Supreme Court upholds prison sentence for man who bit police officer

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — A district judge acted properly last year when he sentenced a man to serve three to six years in prison because the judge was concerned the man would continue to drive drunk, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled Monday.

District Judge Peter G. Arnold of Cheyenne last year sentenced David C. Croy to prison after his no-contest plea to interfering with a police officer. Authorities say Croy bit an officer who responded to a disturbance call.

In a decision issued Monday, the Supreme Court stated that Croy had reached an agreement with prosecutors that called for him to be placed on three to five years of probation. But Arnold rejected that recommendation and imposed prison time after saying he was concerned that Croy had 11 convictions for driving while under the influence of alcohol and might offend again.

The court opinion quotes what Arnold told Croy at sentencing in rejecting the idea of putting him on probation: "Mr. Croy, what am I going to tell the mother of the child you kill when you're out drinking and driving? What am I going to tell her when she comes in and says, 'Great job, Judge. ... He had 11 convictions for driving while impaired or while under the influence. How could you possibly put him back on the street?' What am I going to tell her?'"

When Croy responded that he would keep himself from drinking in the future, Arnold responded, "But you haven't in the past. There has never been a time when you didn't drink. I'm sorry, Mr. Croy, I'm not going to take a chance."

The Supreme Court opinion, written by Justice William Hill, states, "We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion at sentencing when considering Croy's criminal history, such as previous DUIs, with safety of the community in mind."

Lawyer Kirk Morgan of the state public defender's office represented Croy on appeal. His office said Monday he had no comment on the ruling.

Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael said Monday his office's position was that Croy's case fell within the issues that judges are allowed to consider at sentencing.

"Public protection is a totally legitimate factor in a sentencing decision," Michael said. He said it's not abnormal sentencing to send a recidivist drunken driver to prison because they might be a threat to others.

Plea agreements between defenders and prosecutors commonly contain the warning that a judge ultimately may not accept sentencing recommendations, Michael said.

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