By Joel Funk and Daniel Bendtsen
Via Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — A Laramie man was sentenced Wednesday to 13-15 years imprisonment after being convicted for raping an 18-year-old photographer he lured to an Airbnb on East Comanche Drive.
In all cases, Wyoming judges are required to consider probation in lieu of prison time. Devon Thauriaux, serving as his own attorney, futilely pleaded for District Court Judge Tori Kricken not to incarcerate him.
“Your lured somebody into a situation with criminal intent,” Kricken said. “That doesn’t warrant probation.”
Thauriaux had originally been charged with three counts of first-degree sexual assault, a charge that carries a penalty of up to 50 years imprisonment. He also faced a kidnapping charge.
However, he took a plea deal in September: The Albany County Attorney’s office dropped the first-degree sexual assault charges in exchange for Thauriaux pleading no contest to third-degree sexual assault, which only carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.
The agreement with prosecutors meant an open plea for Thauriaux; Kricken was not bound by sentencing recommendations and had full discretion over how long Thauriaux would spend in prison.
In the last month, Thauriaux had desperately tried to convince Kricken to let him renege on his no contest plea, arguing his former public defender, Brian Quinn, unfairly coerced him into the deal.
Kricken offered him Thauriaux one last chance to make his case an hour before he was sentenced.
During Wednesday’s proceeding, Thauriaux needled Quinn about his handling of the case. The defendant argued he only made the no contest plea because Quinn told him the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming and that Thauriaux would likely spend the rest of his life in prison if the case went to trial. Additionally, Thauriaux presented what he considered evidence of Quinn not serving as competent counsel.
During a lengthy exchange with Quinn on the stand, the public defender and his former client went back and forth on areas Thauriaux said demonstrated his attorney was not fully committed to the case. Thauriaux said an attorney with a client facing essentially a life sentence should have interviewed witnesses, hired expert witnesses and investigated Facebook messages and phone records he said could have called the victim’s statements into question.
Quinn said he instead focused on disputing the state’s efforts to bring evidence of past sexual crimes into the trial, and that the areas Thauraiux wanted to focus on would not have convinced a jury he was not guilty.
And while Quinn said he couldn’t remember some of the finer details of his work on Thauriaux’s case — Quinn said he’d moved on from the matter after Thauriaux dismissed him — he said he fulfilled his duties as an attorney.
“I never worked harder on a case in my life,” Quinn said.
In his final statements before sentencing, Thauriaux maintained his innocence and said he’d always wanted the matter to go to trial.
But Kricken said she made clear when Thauriaux entered his plea that he should state if he was being coerced or threatened to make the no contest plea. He was also given the opportunity to say whether he felt he had not adequately been represented by his legal counsel. At the time, Thauriaux said he was making the plea voluntarily and that he felt he had been adequately represented by Quinn. The evidence, Kricken said, suggested it was more likely Thauriaux regretted his decision to make the no contest plea and was trying to walk it back as sentencing approached.
Chief Deputy County Attorney Kurt Britzius said the state was asking for the maximum sentence allowed. Looking at Thauriaux’s past history of sexual crimes, it seemed appropriate to “move past rehabilitation as the primary goal.”
Thauriaux is married and has a young son.
In the month following his arrest, his wife started an unsuccessful “GoFundMe” in an attempt to raise money to hire a private attorney.
“Everyday we hear stories of people being wrongfully accused of crimes,” she wrote in that call for donations. “Never in a million years did I expect it to happen to my husband.”
Thauriaux’s rape charges stem from an incident that happened on Feb. 22.
According a police affidavit, the victim told a Laramie Police Department officer she had been contacted by Thauriaux through Facebook to do a “boudoir” photo shoot he said he wanted “to be handled professionally.”
The victim felt uncomfortable by the proposal and brought her aunt.
When they left, the victim said she forgot her keys and returned alone to the house, where she said Thauriaux pushed her onto a bed, removed her clothes and raped her.
She eventually broke free, ran out of the house, where she coincidentally ran into an undercover police officer and reported the rape. The victim told police she expressed her non-consent at least 10 times during the rape.
At the behest of Thauriaux, Quinn requested to withdraw from the case Nov. 13, when Thauriaux began acting as his own attorney.
“I will be handling the rest of my case pro se,” Thauriaux wrote in a Nov. 14 letter to Kricken. “I would prefer an attorney who will actually work for me. No one in the public defender’s office has shown the ability to take my case to trial.”
Since then, Thauriaux filed numerous hand-written legal requests and letters to Kricken.
He unsuccessfully tried to subpoena records and witness statements.
Kricken denied the bulk of Thauriaux’s pro se motions filed before the judge formally allowed Quinn and the entire public defender’s office to withdraw on Dec. 17.
Afterwards, Thauriaux also unsuccessfully tried to get Kricken to recuse herself from the case, saying she had been “extremely prejudicial” in denying his motions.
Shortly before Thauriaux pleaded no contest, Kricken gave prosecutors approval to use certain character evidence against Thauriaux if the case proceeded to trial.
Thauriaux had been convicted of sexual battery twice in 2014 and 2016.
Like the February case, both incidences involved Thauriaux using the internet to lure unsuspecting women into sexual situations.
Prosecutors found multiple other incidences of predatory behavior by Thauriaux.