A Natrona County judge on Wednesday sentenced a man to more than a decade in prison despite the man’s overnight suicide attempt.

James Sanders attempted suicide in Natrona County Detention Center overnight, attorneys said at the beginning of a scheduled sentencing hearing for a conviction on a single count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Sanders pleaded guilty to the charge last year as part of a deal with prosecutors that calls for him to spend 12-20 years in prison.

He also faces a second set of charges, to which he is expected to finalize a plea agreement that would put him in prison for anywhere from two to 31 years more.

Wednesday morning, Dylan Rosalez, Sanders’ court-appointed attorney, cited the suicide attempt in asking Judge Daniel Forgey to suspend the sentencing hearing so Sanders could be evaluated.

District Attorney Dan Itzen opposed the request, noting hospital staff had not ordered Sanders held for his own safety.

“Frankly, we’ve been waiting 7 months to sentence the defendant,” Itzen told the judge. “At some point the games have to stop.”

In response to the prosecutor’s remarks, Rosalez said he believes his client has a legitimate mental health issue, and again renewed his request for the halt to proceedings.

Forgey then questioned Sanders briefly.

Sanders, who wore jail inmate garb, said he did not know what charges he was appearing in court on, noting that he has “got a few.” He was able to roughly described the nature of the two sets of charges he faces and say he knew he was in a Casper courtroom.

Forgey then decided to go forward with sentencing, noting that Sanders was not ordered held by medical professionals, was able to answer many of Forgey’s questions accurately, had recently been found competent in the parallel case and the sentencing was coming as the result of a plea agreement.

The attorneys both asked for a 12-20 year sentence, in keeping with the agreement. Sanders declined to add any comment before the judge agreed to impose the sentence and deputies led Sanders from the courtroom.

After the hearing, Forgey declined to comment on the nature of the suicide attempt and referred comment to the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jail.

A sheriff’s spokesman acknowledged Wednesday morning that a person had attempted suicide at the jail overnight. Sgt. Aaron Shatto said he could not identify the inmate by name.

Shatto said deputies doing cell checks at about 4:25 a.m. found an inmate attempting suicide by hanging. The deputies cut the man down and had him transported to a local hospital. The sergeant said he was thankful for the deputies’ diligent performance of their duties.

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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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