By: Shane Sanderson
A Natrona County judge on Friday morning voided a plea agreement that called for a Casper man to serve probation for two domestic violence convictions, saying the proposed punishment did not match the crime.
Although Alec Chastaine, 47, last year pleaded guilty to a felony count of strangulation and a misdemeanor count of domestic battery in exchange for prosecutors’ recommendation that he serve three years probation, Judge Kerri Johnson declined Friday to impose the recommended sentence and re-instituted Chastaine’s not guilty pleas.
In making her ruling, Johnson cited court documents filed by police stating that Chastaine fractured a woman’s vertebra in the attack.
The decision means that Chastaine’s case is set again for trial, now with a date in early March. He will also have opportunity to work out a new agreement with prosecutors to bring again before the judge.
The prosecution dates to June, when police arrested Chastaine, alleging he stangled the woman, punched her kidneys — which are the location of a prior medical issue — and her back. She told police shortly after the attack that she thought Chastaine could kill her and has tried to do so previously, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.
He told a detective that he has strangled the same woman multiple times in the past, according to the documents.
Then, in October, Chastaine pleaded guilty by admitting in court to drunkenly attacking the woman and strangling her. At the same hearing, lawyers first laid out the details of the plea agreement. When Johnson then asked him if Chastaine had punched the woman in the back, he could not specify.
On Friday morning, after an investigation into his background, Chastaine appeared for sentencing wearing shackles and a jail uniform. Johnson began the hearing by asking attorneys to explain why she ought to accept the plea deal.
Assistant District Attorney Ava Bell told the judge that Chastaine had not previously been arrested on suspicion of a crime of domestic violence. The prosecutor said the victim was released without treatment for the injury to her back, which the prosecutor described as a cracked vertebra.
The woman, who was not present in court on Friday, has varied her opinion of the plea agreement, Bell said. Although the victim had at one point approved of the agreement, she later indicated she wanted Chastaine to serve prison time.
Joe Hampton, the court-appointed defense attorney representing Chastaine, also asked Johnson to accept the agreement.
The judge, however, declined to do so. Johnson noted that the recommended sentence — three years of probation in lieu of a three- to five-year prison sentence — is more frequently seen in drug possession convictions.
“I think (the recommended sentence) unduly depreciates the seriousness of the offense,” said Johnson. “I cannot fathom that this is an appropriate plea agreement.”
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Posted on January 31, 2020 at 1:58 pm