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Probation a relief for family of troubled teen with ailing health

Oct 8, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

When 19-year-old Adrian Addison was sentenced for two felonies Tuesday, he already had been in custody for 449 days.

He limped into Fremont County's district courtroom wearing his orange prison uniform, greeted by a crowd of nervous family members concerned about his declining health.

As the hearing began, he held his head in his hands.

Just a week prior, the teenager had begun having severe seizures for the first time in his life.

"I got so weak that I didn't want to wake up again, but I kept pushing myself because I wanted to see my family again," he told judge Norman Young.

Prosecutor Ember Oakley asked Young to sentence Addison to eight years imprisonment for his two charges: Third degree sexual abuse of a minor and aggregate property destruction.

She said the nature of Addison's crimes meant "it is necessary to protect society as a whole."

Addison's public defender, Jon Gerard, urged for probation.

"I can't express how dangerous I think that is, to go to prison for even more time for a crime he probably doesn't understand," Gerard said.

Addison's grandmother, Arilda Chavez, also pleaded for probation, worrying for the health of the man she's taken care of since he was 8, when his mom died.

"He's made a lot of promises to his creator," Chavez said.

Addison has been held mostly in isolation at the county jail over the past 449 days.

His human contact was mostly limited to interactions with deputies, as well as occasional visits from his family and Gerard.

He also had a trip to the Wyoming State Hospital, where his mental capacity was evaluated.

Gerard said Addison was "functioning nowhere near his age level." After suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome, Addison essentially has the brain of a 12-year-old -- like the kids five years younger than him that he normally befriends.

They were the only ones that didn't incessantly bully him.

"It's a case where alcohol has had a huge impact," Gerard said, noting Addison is "minimally educated and intellectually challenged."

"It's hard to know that what I was doing was hurting people," Addison said before his sentencing.

At first, it seemed as though Addison would be sent away to the state penitentiary: Young initially announced a 3-6 prison sentence for the sex crime.

Then, after explaining the fees and restitution Addison owed, Young paused and said he was suspending the prison sentence in favor of 3-5 years probation.

Addison would be allowed to go home.

As that news sunk in, Addison's family became emotional.

Then, moments later, Addison grunted and started shaking violently in his chair.

It was another seizure.

The brief relief they had felt instantly turned to fear as Addison's family members leapt to his aid and laid him on the floor.

Oakley rushed to get water while attorney Valerie Schoneberger comforted Addison's young niece outside.

Minutes later, an ambulance arrived, and Addison was taken out of the courthouse secured on a stretcher.

Before the sentencing, Gerard said that probation would mean Addison would be living in a sober environment in Ethete.

David Hagger, special education transition coordinator for Wyoming Indian schools, said he would work to get Addison involved in Community Entry Services.

Addison was charged with third-degree sexual abuse after admitted to having sex in 2016 with a 12-year-old girl he met on Facebook.

Gerard said Addison "never particularly sought her out." She had lied about her age, Gerard said, and the crime was "not as predatory" as it might seem at first glance.

Addison was also charged with vandalism after he and two younger boys used rocks and BB guns to cause $8,700 worth of damage to the windows of vehicles and buildings near Central Wyoming College in January 2016.

Addison was 17 at the time but was tried as an adult.

Before that, Gerard said Addison had "almost a complete lack of criminal history."

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