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Suspect in assault on girl changes plea to guilty
Aug 9, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer
In a calm, level voice, George William Lucas answered questions about how he nearly killed a girl by choking her until she was unconscious.
After pleading guilty to charges during the Thursday morning hearing, the 48-year-old Riverton man, who was on probation for a prior sexual assault conviction, described his actions.
Lucas said he "put my arm around her neck," and that he was "squeezing until she was unconscious."
Lander's 9th District Judge Norman E. Young asked Lucas why he did it.
"To keep her from yelling or running away," Lucas replied.
Why did he want to stop her from running or yelling? Young asked.
Lucas paused for five seconds before responding: "I don't know the answer to that."
The exchange came during the roughly 30-minute hearing in which Lucas pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree sexual assault and sexual abuse. He also pleaded no contest to intimidating a witness.
40 years to life
The pleas resulted from an agreement filed on Wednesday in District Court that calls for a sentence of 40 years to life for the attempted-murder charge. The parties also agreed that Lucas would serve 40 to 50 years for sexual assault, 18 to 20 years for sexual abuse and eight to 10 years for intimidating a witness.
With all of the sentences running concurrently, Young asked Lucas if he understood that he is agreeing to a term of between 40 years and life in prison.
"Yes, I do," Lucas replied, wearing orange jail clothes with chains attached to his ankles and wrists.
Sentencing will happen at a later date.
The Fremont County Attorney's Office initially filed 17 felonies against Lucas following the brutal attack he committed on the girl last fall. Prosecutors later reduced the number of charges, to which Lucas pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness or deficiency on March 1. Following his arraignment, Lucas underwent an evaluation at the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston.
Thursday's hearing initially had been set to weigh his competency and argue evidence in the case, but the plea agreement changed the purpose.
Appearing with defense attorney Kate McKay, Lucas sat attentively and provided simple answers to questions asked by Young including whether he was under the influence of drugs or if he suffered from mental illness.
"No, sir," Lucas responded to both questions.
Young said he could reject the plea agreement, but he does not feel that would happen.
"There is nothing ... on the face of it that causes me to believe the court might reject it," he said.
Young said he would reserve his judgment on the matter until completion and review of a pre-sentence investigation report concerning the defendant's criminal history and other factors.
"I don't think there is any issue, but I want to make double sure," he said.
Young asked Lucas if he was sure about changing his pleas to the charges.
"Yes, sir," Lucas responded.
Before talking about his crimes, Lucas told the judge his age. He said he has an associate's degree and that prior to his arrest he was a salesman in a lumber yard.
Lucas said he had a belt and his arm around the girl's neck. When asked if he used the belt to choke her, Lucas said, "Just my arm."
He admitted to other allegations against him that occurred with the choking and during an incident days before the attempted murder.
Describing the allegations for intimidating a witness, deputy county attorney Patrick LeBrun said Lucas wanted to prevent the girl from talking about what happened.
"He struck her and strangled her to quiet her," he said.
"He could decide to make her not a witness -- in other words, kill her, prior to charges being filed," LeBrun said.
Upon further questioning by Young, Lucas said he choked her for 30 to 45 seconds. The judge asked if Lucas disagreed the act could have killed her.
"No, sir," he replied.
Lucas's admission to the crimes contributed to Young revoking his probation for a 2009 conviction of third-degree sexual assault. Under an agreement at the time, Lucas received a suspended prison sentence of two to four years and a probation term of four years.
Lucas has remained in jail on a $1 million bond following his arrest.