Casper Man Gets Prison Time for Sexually Abusing Relatives
A 65-year-old Casper man was sentenced to prison Tuesday for sexually abusing two of his female relatives over a decade ago.
District Judge Thomas Sullins sentenced Jeffrey Lance Bryden to a total of two to four years in prison. Bryden received the same sentence on each of two counts: incest and indecent liberties with a minor.
In keeping with a plea agreement between Bryden and the Natrona County District Attorney's Office, the sentences will run concurrently. In pronouncing the sentences on Tuesday, Sullins said he "reluctantly" accepted the plea agreement.
Of the sentence itself, Sullins said that there are "huge considerations" to be made in such cases. Bryden could have faced a maximum of 15 years in prison on the two counts.
"There are multiple, multiple dynamics that go into sentencing parameters and plea agreements," Sullins said from the bench. "The court gave some consideration to possibly rejecting a plea agreement."
Court documents say Bryden abused two family members when they were 11-15 years old and 18-22 years old, respectively, between Dec. 1, 2002 and Jan. 31, 2005.
One victim reported the abuse to the Casper Police Department in September 2016.
"You hide behind this false facade of being a man of God," one victim said in her statement to the court Tuesday morning, "but in reality you are a devil at heart."
"Never again will I have to hear you tell me I'm worthless, I'm a liar," she continued. "I will never understand how someone can force themselves on someone else, then act like they're the victim."
The second victim told Bryden, "You are the most manipulating person I've ever met."
"I know that I can finally talk about this and be free from the prison my mind has been trapped in," she added.
"I'm not out to get you, and I'm not just an angry daughter," she emphasized. "You can lie to the rest of the world, but you can't lie to me."
Defense attorney Kara Crawford-Fink called it "a unique situation," pointing to the age of the crimes and the fact that Bryden was charged under old statutes -- those that were in place and relevant at the time the crimes were committed.
"These incidences are isolated," Crawford-Fink told the court. She said Bryden, who had been associated with Grace Lutheran Church in Casper, officiated the weddings of both victims at their request.
Bryden, Crawford-Fink said, "would be an elderly prisoner with health issues."
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri, in his sentencing recommendation, said it was important for the sentence to deter Bryden as well as anyone who may commit similar crimes. He also told the court that Bryden was convicted in 2008 of a domestic battery charge and successfully completed probation.
Sullins agreed, referring to the number of similar cases over which he has provided as well as the "devastating impact," as he called it, which those cases have had on victims.
Crawford-Fink told Sullins that a longstanding debate continues as to whether sentences actually deter others, and said that the sentence in Bryden's case "will likely have no deterring effect" on anyone else.
When given the opportunity to speak before being sentenced, Bryden turned to his family members -- including the two victims -- in the gallery and said, "Apologies."
"Sixteen years we were a family," Bryden began, before a woman interjected.
"Because we were forced to be," she told him. Sullins instructed Bryden to direct his statement to the court, not to the people seated in the gallery.
"I've had failures, but I am not a failure," Bryden continued. Of the victims and the allegations, he said, "They got mad at their mom and they're trying to take it out on me."
"I have my businesses... my place in the community is gone now," Bryden added, his body visibly shaking during his statement. "I apologize."
Sullins said Bryden's failure to take responsibility for the crimes was a concern in deciding upon a sentence.
"We have huge victim impact in this case," Sullins said, referencing a "spiral effect" that saw the case also impact the victims' quality of life and their family members.
"In this case, I'm greatly moved by the presentations relative to the impact on the two ladies involved in this matter," Sullins continued.
Bryden turned and waved to someone in the gallery before he was led away by sheriff's deputies.