CHEYENNE – After being kidnapped, beaten and sexually assaulted two and a half years ago, Jennie Bessert still has trouble sleeping.
Instead of going out of her house to work or hanging out with friends, she spends her days in her home, staring at her security cameras to make sure her alleged attacker doesn’t come back for her.
On July 24, 2017, Bessert was held captive for three days, allegedly by her then-husband, Daniel Doby.
Doby was arrested and charged with kidnapping with inflicting bodily injury, first-degree sexual assault, aggravated assault and battery with a threat and deadly weapon, two counts of applying pressure on the throat or neck, blocking the nose or mouth, interference with an emergency call and domestic battery.
Under the terms of a signed plea agreement filed in Laramie County District Court on Monday, Doby will only have to give an Alford plea to one count of strangulation and pay a $10,000 fine with $5,000 suspended. All other charges are to be dismissed by the state, along with a separate case in which Doby allegedly violated a protection order by having contact with Bessert.
An Alford plea is similar to a no-contest plea, in that the defendant doesn’t admit to guilt or innocence, but the plea still has the same effect as a guilty verdict, according to Cornell Law School.
Doby’s change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday before District Judge Steven K. Sharpe. Calls on Thursday and Friday to Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove’s office seeking comment about the plea deal weren’t returned.
The state’s reasoning for accepting an Alford plea is due to complexities in the case and Doby’s advanced health problems, making any potential future litigation uncertain, according to the plea agreement.
“For example, the parties agree that upon conviction, whether by plea agreement or by trial conviction to any of the pending charges, significant state resources would be expended to accommodate (Doby’s) health issues as part of any incarceration,” the plea agreement states. “Likewise, (Doby’s) ability to comply with traditional terms and conditions of supervised probation is also compromised by his health, and is likely to place more burden on the probation officer and his/her resources than on (Doby).”
Doby also can’t have any contact with Bessert, and he has to be a law-abiding citizen, other than minor traffic offenses. The agreement also puts him on five years of unsupervised probation.
Photos of Bessert’s face after the attack show one of her eyes severely blackened and swollen shut. Clumps of her hair are also missing from where it was ripped out of her head. In the photo, Bessert said, she’s still tan from her honeymoon in Mexico with Doby.
The beating and kidnapping occurred three weeks into their marriage, and they’re now divorced.
Despite the plea agreement, Bessert said she still hopes to see Doby incarcerated.
“I want him to be held accountable for his actions, and I don’t think that’s unfair,” Bessert said. “I don’t think since he’s a burden on the state that should have anything to do with a man that tried to kill me being put in his place.”
Bessert said she was willing to have the case brought to trial and was willing to testify. She said she doesn’t agree with the current plea deal, and it’s like, “oh, you were bad, pay $5,000.” She said she’s tired of Doby’s health being used as an excuse by both his defense attorney and prosecutors.
Since the incident, Bessert has woken up screaming, thinking she’s being attacked, and she doesn’t like leaving her house.
“I’m so hypervigilant now, it’s hard for me to go out in public,” Bessert said. “I’m afraid that he’s going to be around every corner, or he’s going to be hidden in the crowd. ... I don’t have friends. I don’t do social things. I stay at either my house or (her mother’s) house. And that’s my life right now.”
Bessert said she spent her time waiting for a trial that’s never going to happen.
“The plea agreement that I was provided is absolutely disgraceful. It’s not appropriate in any sense of the word,” said Ryan Millbern, a now-former Cheyenne police officer who worked the case. “Truly, to anyone that’s ever worn a badge, it’s embarrassing, given the facts of the case.”
Before Manlove took over the case in January, former Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg said he was planning on taking the case to trial. But he stipulated that he doesn’t know of any recent developments in the case, and he can only speak to the case when it was before him in 2017 and 2018.
He said when the case was in front of him, he had a strong case for trial based on the information in the affidavit of probable cause, Doby admitting to the allegations to law enforcement and the physical evidence.
When asked about whether he would have considered Doby’s health problems when potentially offering a plea agreement, he said that’s something he would never consider.
“The state has an obligation to seek justice, and that means the state needs to pony up and pay for things,” he said. “This is part of the argument I made to the Legislature. They’re continuing to underfund criminal prosecution and the housing of inmates. It is really detrimental to the criminal justice system in the state of Wyoming.”
University of Wyoming College of Law Professor Stephen D. Easton, speaking about plea agreements in general, said the most common public good that comes out of plea agreements is efficiency. Though he believes strongly in the trial process, he said the criminal justice system isn’t set up in a way that can take every case to trial.
He said prosecutors may also offer plea agreements because they believe the defendant committed the crime, but might have a hard time proving it beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
Dismissing multiple counts of the same crime for a guilty plea won’t necessarily have a huge impact on a case, either, he said. For example, a person may be charged with 22 counts of the same crime, and the state dismissing 21 counts isn’t really going to impact the sentence.
If the victim feels wronged, he said the victim has a right to those feelings, and is entitled to criticize the prosecutor because the prosecutor is a public official. But this doesn’t mean the victim is necessarily correct. The prosecutor represents the victim’s interest to an extent, but their client is the government.
“There can be things that factor into deciding to enter into a plea agreement that a victim might not know about,” Easton said.
In a memorandum filed in Laramie County District Court on Friday, Doby’s attorney, Robert T. Moxley, said the affidavit of probable cause is “horrific” and contains a one-sided portrayal of the incident.
He said with the plea agreement, some of the facts of the case will never fully come out.
He said Doby originally pleaded not guilty by virtue of mental illness or deficiency due to a drug he was taking at the time that Moxley claims caused temporary insanity.
As part of his cancer treatment, Doby was on “anti-androgen therapy” and he had to take a drug called Lupron. The drug caused Doby to have psychological side effects, including mood swings, magnified anger and hot flashes, according to the memorandum.
“Without the Lupron therapy and its influence on Mr. Doby’s emotional stability and moods, Mr. Doby is thoroughly convinced that the incident leading to the charges would never have occurred,” the memorandum said.
Doby spends most of his time at home or with doctors managing his health, according to the memorandum. Moxley said in the memorandum that Bessert is likely to say she fears for her life while Doby is at large, but this statement ignores Doby’s helplessness.
Doby assures the court that he will have no contact with Bessert, the memorandum said.
But Bessert’s not so sure.
“Maybe getting my story out might help other victims get heard,” Bessert said. “I need to tell my story. I need to get it out. I’m tired of suffering in silence.”