A man accused of biting the face of a toddler changed his plea Thursday morning in Natrona County District Court.

Nickolas David Jones entered an Alford plea to a single count of child abuse before District Judge Catherine Wilking. The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

By entering an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but does concede that the state has enough evidence to obtain a conviction at trial. For sentencing purposes, the court treats an Alford plea as a guilty plea.

In exchange for Jones's plea, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri agreed to recommend a prison sentence of 18-36 months. He told Wilking that prison time is appropriate in part because of Jones's criminal history, which includes previous charges of aggravated assault from earlier this year and felony reckless assault from 2008.

Jones's defense attorney, Timothy Cotton, called the case "unique" and told Wilking that there was a reason behind the decision for Jones to enter an Alford plea, though he did not specify that reason. He also said that the state may have reasons for finding a plea deal appropriate in the case.

Wilking said she would wait to see the results of a presentence investigation before deciding whether to accept the plea agreement and sentence Jones accordingly. Should she decide to reject the deal, Jones would be allowed to withdraw his plea and the case would be reset for trial.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Jones and his then-girlfriend dropped the victim off at a daycare facility at the YMCA. At that time, YMCA employees noticed a bite mark on the child's face as well as multiple bruises on his face, ears and neck.

In an interview at the Children's Advocacy Project, another child reportedly said that Jones had physically abused them and two other children. The child specifically mentioned that Jones bit the alleged victim.

Taheri on Thursday told Wilking that the victim had been seen by a doctor on the day in question, prior to being dropped off at the daycare facility, and did not have the injuries at that point. Taheri said that three people were with the child between that time and the time when YMCA employees noticed the injuries.

Using dental impressions, Taheri said, an expert was able to determine that two of those three people could not have caused the bite mark on the child's face. Jones, however, was not ruled out.

Wilking said that she found "strong evidence" that Jones is guilty of the crime charged, and accepted his plea.

Jones remained in custody in lieu of bond a the time of Thursday's hearing. He will be sentenced at a later date.

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