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Tony Cercy, the Casper businessman convicted last week of sexual assault following a more than yearlong prosecution, is in jail, but his fate is not yet final.

He has not yet been sentenced and a judge is allowed broad latitude in sentencing people convicted of third-degree sexual assault, the crime a 12-person jury — consisting of three men and nine women — found Cercy guilty of Wednesday after about nine hours of deliberation.

Jurors were instructed to disregard any sentence Cercy might face in making their decision.

That will be left up to Judge Daniel Forgey, who has overseen the case since it migrated to Natrona County District Court in August 2017 and Cercy pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual assault. In February, a Natrona County jury found him not guilty of two counts and could not render a unanimous verdict on the third. District Attorney Michael Blonigen charged Cercy again with the remaining count and Forgey moved the case to Hot Springs County.

Following the jury’s verdict, defense attorney Jeff Pagliuca argued Forgey should allow his client to remain free on bond. The defense attorney said the $100,000 cash bond Cercy posted in summer 2017 and his “significant ties” to Natrona County would ensure Cercy’s appearance in court for sentencing.

Blonigen asked Forgey to hold Cercy without bond because his assets make him a substantial flight risk.

Forgey ruled in the prosecution’s favor and ordered Cercy held without bond pending sentencing. The judge cited the nature of the charge and Cercy’s financial means in determining he would be a flight risk and danger to the community were he released on bond in advance of the sentencing hearing.

About an hour after the hearing, a van left for the Natrona County Detention Center with Cercy inside. He will remain in the jail while a probation agent researches Cercy’s background. The agent will seek interviews with the victim and Cercy before conducting a background check. The agent will prepare a final report and recommend whether to consider Cercy a candidate for probation.

At a sentencing hearing, which will likely be held in the new year, defense and prosecuting attorneys will make sentencing recommendations to the judge.

Blonigen said following Thursday’s verdict that he will wait for the pre-sentence investigation report before he decides what punishment to request. Pagliuca declined to speak with a reporter moments after the verdict, in keeping with his practice throughout the case.

Forgey has no obligation to follow either party’s recommendation, but there are limits to the sentence he can impose.

The crime of third-degree sexual assault has no minimum sentence, so Forgey could conceivably sentence Cercy to probation. The maximum sentence allowed by state law is 15 years imprisonment. Were Forgey to sentence Cercy to more than a year of incarceration, he would be transferred from the Natrona County jail to a prison.

All of Wyoming’s male prison inmates are first observed by corrections department staff. Once it decides upon a final placement for a new inmate, he is either assigned a cell in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins, sent to Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington or sent out of state.

Although capacity issues in Wyoming have led the corrections department to send some inmates to a private Mississippi prison, Cercy would be unlikely to land there. The vast majority of prisoners sent to the southern facility have sentences longer than Cercy could face, the result of a decision by prison officials to limit the number of inmates who will have to be brought back to Wyoming in the near future.

Wherever Cercy’s sentence takes him, he will be required to register as a sex offender and — as a felon — will lose his rights to vote and to possess firearms.

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Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson

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Crime and Courts Reporter

Shane Sanderson is a Star-Tribune reporter who primarily covers criminal justice. Sanderson is a proud University of Missouri graduate. Lately, he’s been reading Cormac McCarthy and cooking Italian food. He writes about his own life in his free time.

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