Court

New evidence was introduced in the case of a man accused of sexual assault during a special hearing in Albany County District Court last week.

Laramie resident Devon Thauriaux is facing three charges of sexual assault in the first degree and one charge of kidnapping. If convicted on all charges, he could face up to 170 years imprisonment.

The charges stem from an incident that happened on Feb. 22. According the affidavit, the victim told a Laramie Police Department officer she had been contacted by Thauriaux through Facebook to do a photo shoot. She said she had forgotten her keys after the shoot, and was told by Thauriaux to return the residence he rented for the photo shoot to get them. Upon returning to the location, she was sexually assaulted.

A hearing on the use of evidence pursuant to Wyoming Rule of Evidence 404(b) was held Aug. 28 in District Court. Generally, character evidence is not allowed because of that rule. However, there is an exception under the rule where evidence of past crimes and wrongdoings can be admitted for several reasons. Evidence that shows a similar plan, intent or motive can be admitted.

The state of Wyoming, represented by Albany County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kurt Britzius tried to introduce evidence in three categories: Past sexual misconduct, an incident at the University of Wyoming Half-Acre Gym and recovered emails.

Past misconduct

Britzius introduced four incidents of Thauriaux’s past sexual misconduct. In two of those incidents, the defendant was convicted of sexual battery. Sexual battery is defined as one person touching the private parts of another person’s body without consent.

The first two incidents both took place in June of 2014 on the same day. Thauriaux posted an advertisement on Craigslist looking for a health care assistant. He claimed he had a back injury and needed assistance. Thauriaux interviewed both victims on the same day, but at different times.

In both cases, Thauriaux had each victim assist him with showering after a short interview. In one case, he asked the victim to also give him a massage and to help him “release” in exchange for money. The victim refused and left.

In the second case, the victim said the defendant repeatedly groped her while they showered and instructed her to wash him in a lewd manner. He also offered her money to “masturbate” him. She also refused. The incident led to Thauriaux being convicted of sexual battery.

Another incident in December of 2015 was introduced, but there was no conviction of a crime. In that case, Thauriaux invited the victim to his residence under the guise of his wife’s name. Upon arrival, the victim only encountered Thauriaux. The two engaged in sexual acts, but the victim said she did not feel safe to decline to engage in the acts or leave.

The final incident happened in November of 2016 where Thauriaux met the victim through the internet. The victim said the defendant offered to fix her car and help pay her rent. Thauriaux asked to masturbate in front of her, to which the victim said no, but he did so anyways. He then slapped her with both his hands and genitals and tried to force her to perform oral sex on him. Thauriaux was convicted of sexual battery for the incident.

According to court documents, District Court Judge Tori Kricken allowed the introduction of the evidence of his past misdeeds. She said because Thauriaux is being charged with sexual misconduct, other instances of him engaging in similar behavior was determined to be relevant. Kricken concluded the information was necessary to provide a jury with the complete story as to the defendant’s access to the alleged victim. The development of a photographer/client relationship that would allow for sexual access was similar enough to the past incidents.

Half-Acre incident

Britzius tried to introduce evidence about an incident at the Half-Acre gym on the University of Wyoming campus. Thauriaux had requested the use of the female’s locker room, claiming he was going through a gender transition at the time.

A UW Police Department detective familiar with the case said Thauriaux had been escorted, at his request, by an employee. The detective said the employees advised the defendant of private bathrooms he could use, but he declined. The detective did not report of any sexual incident happening there.

According to court documents, prosecutors said the evidence would show how the defendant would use deceit to get into situations where he is around females while naked.

Defense lawyer Brian Quinn, who represented Thauriaux, said there is no evidence his client was being deceitful with his gender transition.

Kricken decided not to allow the introduction of the Half-Acre evidence. In court documents, she said the incident was not sufficiently similar to the current crime Thauriaux is charged with. Kricken said that there has been no evidence to refute any claims Thauriaux had been considering a gender transition or if he identifies as female.

Emails

The final batch of evidence the prosecution wanted to introduce was a batch of emails. The Laramie Police Department received the correspondence from Thauriaux’s past employer. The emails had all been from craigslist advertisements the defendant posted using his work email.

The prosecution said the postings were offered for the purpose of showing a general plan or to corroborate the witness’ claim. The prosecution said the emails showed Thauriaux would routinely place himself in a position of power by posing as another person or as a person in need of services.

Kricken also declined to allow the use of the emails as evidence in the case. In court documents, she said review of the email exchanges found them to be confusing. She said they seem to represent consensual encounters.

The next step

The jury trial for the case is scheduled for Oct. 2-5. The jury trial will see Thauriaux’s past conduct, along with any evidence from the assault he is charged with. The prosecution will not be allowed to use any of the evidence from the Half-Acre incident or the emails.

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