Townsend Justice Center (Gregory Hirst)

CASPER, Wyo.  — A 24-year-old Casper man was sentenced to three to five years in state prison Wednesday morning on a charge of simple child abuse.

Nathan John Sandoval pleaded guilty to the reduced charge earlier this year. The original aggravated charge carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison.

Sandoval’s counselor, two co-workers, a friend and two family members delivered statements attesting to his character before Seventh Judicial District Judge Dan Forgey rendered the sentence.

“I don’t know that I’ve met a young man who’s any more sincere about being successful and becoming a better man,” said Leon Chamberlin, who said he’d worked in counseling for 25 years.

“I know he has a real heart for his children,” Chamberlin said.

District Attorney Dan Itzen recounted the elements of the Casper Police Department’s investigation in his brief argument.

“The victimization of a person who looks to an adult for everything in his life can’t be understated,” Itzen said.

“The only way the child can communicate is by crying,” Itzen said, “and the defendant grabs the child by the throat and twists his leg.”

On Sept. 8, 2022, investigators were called to Banner-Wyoming Medical Center when medical staff observed a red mark on a three-month-old infant’s face that seemed inconsistent with Sandoval’s explanation, according to the affidavit.

The child was also found to have a broken shin and collarbone.  

“Judge, the system protects those who can’t protect themselves,” Itzen said. 

Sandoval’s attorney, Ryan Semerad, disputed some of Itzen’s characterizations of the crime. 

“This was not some predatory act,” Semrad said, adding that many parents could relate to the extreme level of fatigue and desperation that Sandoval had acted under. 

“That’s not to excuse his behavior, but to contextualize it,” Semerad said. 

Semerad added that, given Sandoval’s engagement with counseling and continued employment, prison was not necessary for rehabilitation. 

As for punishment, Semerad said Sandoval had already lost a year with his two children, given the standard no-contact conditions attached to his release.

“I cannot think of a more exquisite and terrible punishment,” Semerad said. “A father only gets so many days.”

The imposed sentence would also put Sandoval in danger of permanently losing parental rights, Semerad said.

“He will stand convicted of a serious offense: violence against a child. … I don’t think we need to make an example of Mr. Sandoval to prove that.”

The victim’s mother provided a written statement but not did not address open court.

After everyone had spoken, Judge Forgey silently reviewed the statements before him before saying he found that probation was not appropriate.

Sandoval was led by deputy bailiffs from the courtroom into custody.

He will get credit for 76 days served.