Torrington man sentenced in stalking case

“The plea agreement sufficiently punishes him for what he did do.”

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TORRINGTON – The Goshen Circuit Court met in session Thursday afternoon for the sentencing of Torrington man, James O’Connor, after pleading guilty for violating a protection order for stalking a local woman in October of 2022.

Presiding over the hearing was Judge Nathaniel Hibben, with Deputy Goshen County and Prosecuting Attorney, Colby Sturgeon, representing the State of Wyoming.

Public Defender, Shayla Fosmo, represented the defense on behalf of O’Connor. 

Despite the defendant already entered in a guilty plea at a prior hearing, Judge Hibben noted more information was needed in order to proceed to sentencing.

“Mr. O’Connor, I believe I need more information on a factual basis,” Judge Hibben began. “The entry of plea indicates you’ve plead guilty to the charge, but there are insufficient facts in the case that has caused you to plead guilty. Number one, I asked for a hearing so I may hear those additional facts. Two, before I accept your guilty plea Mr. O’Connor, do you wish to proceed with your entry of guilty in this case?”

O’Connor answered in the affirmative.

“Mr. O’Connor, the reason I asked for this hearing is for me to have a chance to address you,” Hibben continued. “I will be differential in the plea agreement which means I will follow it, but I do want it impress upon you how serious the law takes protection orders and violations of them.”

The circuit judge proceeded to continue addressing the defendant, citing any resident’s right for peace and safety remains a top priority in the eyes of the court. Judge Hibben further added harassment or intimidation upon any resident despite an in-place court order was immensely unacceptable.

“It is a fundamental matter of safety,” Hibben continued. “There are a large number of incidents. One may not need to look far when people are placed at risk and their safety is jeopardized. Let me make sure you understand this. You had a hearing before in 2022. I found a protection order was needed and necessary. You were prohibited from contacting her, following her, or driving wherever she may be whether at church or work. That is stalking. You had the protection order in place, which says you cannot do those things. We have an allegation that you violated that, which I hope you can appreciate.”

The court then required brief questioning by Fosmo in the direction of her client, reviewing circumstantial facts which constitute a violation of said protection order.

Fosmo proceeded to ask O’Connor if he indeed ensued in continuous stalking of the victim, while recently following her from a vehicle he had been operating.

Once again, O’Connor answered in the affirmative, claiming he undeniably followed the woman he was ordered to have no contact with and stay entirely away from.

O’Connor again answered in the affirmative just prior to his legal counsel addressing the court.

“Mr. O’Connor and I have had several conversations in which he understands the protection order,” Fosmo said before the court. “The plea agreement sufficiently punishes him for what he did do.”

The state agreed with the defense as Sturgeon replied, “Your Honor, I think the plea agreement is a good and fair resolution.”

After hearing presentation from both defense and prosecution, Judge Hibben proceeded to address the defendant once more before handing down a sentence.

“When someone has come before the court being told they must stop doing certain things and it continues, that is why I need to address you. She doesn’t want contact with you, nor any attempt to find where she is or where she is working. When someone violates a protection order, that is a jailable offense. People go to jail for those things. This is one way in which the law and courts can impress upon a person who needs to change their behavior. This speaks to the public such contact cannot be tolerated.”

The court proceeded to hand down a sentence of 60 days in jail for the defendant. Fifty-eight of those day were to be suspended. O’Connor was required to report to the Goshen County Jail at 5 p.m. Saturday, February 24, following a release on Monday, February 26 at 5 p.m.

As part of the plea agreement, O’Connor will be required to serve a six-month probation period promptly after release, while required to file proof of counseling for behaviors related to stalking. The defendant was additionally required to pay mandatory court costs and public defense fees more than $700.

“You will have no violations of any federal, state, or local laws and you will follow all court orders in effect. This protection order is in effect until October of 2025. That is the maximum the law allows me to give. I can extend that by the way if need be.”

When the defendant proceeded to verbally insist to the court he already filed said proof of counseling one year prior, Judge Hibben responded, “Mr. O’Connor, get it filed.”

The court stood in recess at 1:52 p.m.