A former Casper doctor who was set to plead guilty to an attempted steroids possession charge opted instead to take his case to trial after lawyers disagreed on when he would be sentenced in the case.

Paul Harnetty is facing a charge of attempted unlawful possession of Nandolone, a synthetic steroid that is also listed as a controlled substance.

The felony charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Harnetty is also charged with multiple sexual assaults in a separate case related to his work as a Casper gynecologist. The sexual assault case is set to go to trial Jan. 22.

On Tuesday, a plea agreement in the steroids case was thrown out by Natrona County District Court Judge Thomas Sullins after the prosecution and defense differed on whether Harnetty would be sentenced before or after his sexual assault trial commences.

“It’s either that we have an agreement or we do not,” Sullins said. He soon decided on the latter before saying he would re-enter Harnetty’s not guilty plea and schedule the case for trial.

When Harnetty’s hearing began at 8:45, Sullins walked him through the procedures necessary to change a plea.

While Sullins put Harnetty under oath and read the charge in the case, the defendant stood still with his head tilted back and his chin forward.

The plea deal as filed indicated that Harnetty would serve supervised probation in lieu of a suspended prison sentence. The length of the sentence would have been up to the court.

When Sullins asked Harnetty if he understood the terms of the plea agreement, he leaned over to talk to his lawyer, John Miner. Miner then conferred with prosecutor Mike Schafer.

After the lawyers’ finished speaking, Miner said the two sides had a “misunderstanding.” He said the two parties had discussed setting sentencing in the case after the sexual assault trial, although the plea agreement did not reflect his understanding.

Schafer said he had not discussed delaying sentencing in the case, and declined to modify the plea agreement to ensure Harnetty’s preferred scheduling.

Schafer then asked the judge to set the case for trial. Minor did not oppose Schafer’s request.

“Very, very seldom have I ever seen this happen,” Sullins said before declaring that he would have the case scheduled and adjourned the hearing.

Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson

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