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Michael Cooper Pleads Guilty to Reckless Endangerment; Wyo. Supreme Court Sent Case Back for Trial

A Casper man convicted on aggravated assault charges stemming from a July 2011 shooting pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors in a plea deal on Monday, his attorney said.

In early 2012, a Natrona County jury found Michael Cooper guilty of aggravated assault and battery. He later was sentenced to a term of two-and-a-half to five years behind bars.

However, Cooper appealed his conviction because he claimed his attorney was ineffective because she failed to call expert witness; the district court improperly instructed the jury on the law of self-defense; and there was insufficient evidence of a threat to support the jury’s guilty verdict.

In March 2014, the Wyoming Supreme Court issued an opinion stating there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict but that Cooper did not receive effective representation and the jury was improperly instructed on self defense. The Supreme Court sent the case back to Natrona County District Court for trial.

Public defender Rob Oldham said Cooper agreed to plead guilty to three counts of reckless endangering in exchange for reducing the aggravated assault charges.

For the first two misdemeanors, Cooper was given credit for the time he served in his previous sentence, and will serve another 60 days in the Natrona County Detention Center for the third misdemeanor., Oldham said.

“The big thing for the defense side is he’s not going to have a felony on his record,” he said.

The case began on July 9, 2011 when Cooper and two friends spent the afternoon drinking and then went to the Central Wyoming Fair. They argued over two other men over a carnival game and law enforcement ejected them from the fairgrounds.

The two groups later met, and a man in the other group drove toward Cooper, who brandished a gun and shot into the windshield twice. The driver hit Cooper with the car, and Cooper shot a third time as he lay on the hood of the car.

The driver stopped the car, causing Cooper to fall off. The driver then drove, pinned Cooper, and refused to move the car. Cooper shot three more times from under the car, hitting the driver in the calf.

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