A judge sentenced a Casper man Tuesday to two to four years in prison for two sex crime convictions.
Jeffrey L. Bryden, 65, entered Alford pleas of guilty earlier this year to felony charges of taking indecent liberties with a minor and incest. A deal with prosecutors meant Bryden would serve both sentences at the same time, even though each conviction corresponds to a different victim.
When defendants enter guilty pleas pursuant to Alford, they maintain their innocence while pleading guilty. In doing so, they admit that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them and allow prosecutors to establish a factual basis for the pleas rather than admitting to the crimes.
When Bryden was given the opportunity to speak in Natrona County District Court on Tuesday, he turned around and spoke directly to the victims, both his relatives, seated in the audience. After one of the women replied, Judge Thomas Sullins asked Bryden to address him, rather than the audience.
“I am sorry to my family, the court,” Bryden said, pausing, before raising his arms out to the side. “The world.”
Bryden spoke only after both victims addressed the court. The two women spoke in turn, saying Bryden had tried to blame them for his his crimes.
“I lived with fear and in fear for so many years,” one woman said through tears. “I can never understand how someone can force themselves on someone else and act like they are the victim.”
The other woman, speaking in a clear voice and at a rapid pace, said Bryden would now have to be accountable for his crimes.
“You know the whole truth behind the situation and you sure as heck don’t get to deny it anymore,” she said.
After the two women spoke, prosecutor Kevin Taheri asked for Bryden to be sentenced to two to four years in prison.
Crawford-Fink told the court that her client, whose legs quaked as he gripped the lectern and defense table, should not serve prison time. She asked that the prison sentence be suspended and Bryden serve probation instead.
Sullins then gave Bryden the opportunity to speak. After Bryden briefly addressed his victims, he spoke directly to Sullins. Bryden said he did not think he could live in prison, while audience members cried.
Sullins then said he had considered rejecting the plea agreement for being too lenient. He accepted the agreement but cited the seriousness of Bryden’s crimes, the effect on the victims and a need for deterrence in handing down the sentence.
Bryden was led from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies.
The offenses took place more than 10 years ago. Both of the women are now adults. One of the women was well under the age of 18 at the time of the assault.
The first woman reported the allegations to law enforcement after making an audio recording of a phone conversation with Bryden in which he made statements that the woman interpreted as admissions of sexual abuse, according to court documents.
The two women told investigators that Bryden touched their genitals without their consent.
After the women filed reports with police, one of the women participated in a sting operation. Law enforcement listened in on the conversation, and heard Bryden say, in reference to the assault: “I just know I would never do anything to hurt you, but I did,” according to court documents.