A Laramie man was sentenced to 13-20 years of imprisonment this week for an attack on his then-girlfriend in 2017 for which he was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder.
Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken sentenced Cooper Schorzman to prison Tuesday after the 26-year-old took a plea deal in January that saw him plead guilty to kidnapping, strangulation of a household member and child endangerment.
In turn, the charge of attempted murder was dropped, and attorneys argued for Schorzman to face 10-15 years for the kidnapping conviction and 3-5 years for the strangulation charge.
On Sept. 19, 2017, Albany County sheriff’s deputy Jay Peyton was dispatched to a residence on Roger Canyon Road, where he found Schorzman’s then-girlfriend, who had “observed red marks on her neck and she was visibly upset,” according to Peyton’s affidavit.
After the girlfriend picked Schorzman up from work that day, he began driving back to their house but, instead of stopping at home, continued to drive down Roger Canyon Road, the affidavit states.
When Schorzman’s girlfriend tried calling 911, the defendant broke the phone.
Schorzman later contested that characterization, saying he only broke her phone after she “called a guy to prove that she was going to leave me for him.”
- When his girlfriend questioned his actions, he repeatedly stated “you’re fing done.”
When she tried getting out of the moving truck, Schorzman “grabbed her by the hair and wrenched her hair back and grabbed her leg to keep her in the vehicle,” the girlfriend said.
On a few occasions, Schorzman reportedly stopped the car and strangled his girlfriend, stopping only when the couple’s young son, who was in the back seat, began yelling “please don’t hurt my mom.”
Schorzman then got a pistol out of the back of the truck, put it to his head at told his girlfriend: “Get out of here or I’ll kill you.”
According to Peyton’s affidavit, Schorzman quickly corroborated most of his girlfriend’s account of the incident once he was apprehended.
Schorzman told the officer he decided he’d kill his girlfriend “somewhere between the town and the dump.”
He told Peyton he “thought he would kill the victim, get his minor child somewhere safe, and then he planned on confronting law enforcement and having law enforcement kill him, as he was not going to get away with killing the victim and he could not spend the rest of his life in jail,” the affidavit states.
Almost two months later, Kricken had Schorzman sent to the Wyoming State Hospital.
“There is a question as to the defendant’s capacity to comprehend his position to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to conduct his defense in a rational manner, and to cooperate with his counsel to the end that any available defense may be interposed,” she wrote at the time.
WSH held Schorzman for five months, much longer than a typical evaluation period at the request of Bret McCoy, forensic admissions coordinator.
“Mr. Schorzman’s medication continues to be adjusted and his condition monitored to ensure maximum safety and benefit from therapeutic intervention,” McCoy wrote Feb. 14.
An account of the day of the attack by Schorzman later presented a different picture of the attack, a characterization a prosecutor described as “victim-blaming.”
Schorzman said that while he was at work Sept. 19, 2017, at Peerless Tires, his girlfriend had spent the day calling him and showing up at work in a rage.
“She was yelling at me, accusing me of talking to other girls,” Schorzman wrote in a statement. “She left several text messages that she was going to cheat on me. She sent a screen shot of her texting another guy stating that they were going to have sex together.”
Schorzman said the girlfriend came and banged on his employer’s windows, threw her shoes at him and told him she would take their son away.
“All I could think was that she is going to take everything from me,” he said.
When he finally left Peerless Tires with her, he said he choked her after she kept yelling at him and hitting him as he was driving.
Schorzman described the attack as “a blur.”
On Tuesday, Schorzman’s attorneys had asked Kricken to have the two sentences run concurrently, meaning that Schorzman could have been released from prison in barely eight years.
Laramie attorney Sarah Manwarren said that Schorzman “is not the man described in the felony information.”
When she first started representing Schorzman, Manwarren quickly realized she needed additional legal help because of Schorzman’s “severe mental health issues.”
Since being arrested, Schorzman has been treated with a variety of anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs.
Manwarren asked fellow Laramie attorney Linda Devine, who’s experienced in the kind of mental health issues Schorzman deals with, to help with the case.
Devine said that Schorzman’s case is an example of why the county needs a mental health court.
She said she fears that Schorzman spending more than a decade in prison will only mean that he’ll go several years without getting the help he needs.
“He’s just going to sit in a cell and rot,” she said.
Kricken acknowledged that “historically the judicial system in America was not well-equipped to handle mental health issues, but we’ve made great stride.”
Before he was sentenced, Schorzman spoke and expressed remorse.
“I know why I’m here,” he said. “I chose to do what I did, regardless of circumstances. When I came to jail, I was very angry at everybody but myself. I didn’t want to believe that I did what I did.”
Schorzman said he’s started to address his mental health issues and hopes that “in time, I’ll be able to prevent this from ever happening again.”
“I pray that my son and his mother can recover,” he said. “I just hope that I haven’t harmed anybody more than they can recover from.”
Both Manwarren and Schorzman’s father said they wished the defendant would have wanted to fight the charges.
“He’s simply not the kind of person who wants to bother people with the problem he created,” Manwarren said. “He didn’t want to fight this. He didn’t want his girlfriend to testify. As a lawyer, that makes me cringe and scream inside.”
Manwarren said Schorzman’s actions result from lacking the coping skills need to deal with the severe stress he was under on the day of the attack.
“When people are working full time and trying to provide for a family, (mental health issues) get put on the back burner,” Manwarren said.
Ultimately, Kricken decided to go along with the sentence proposed by prosecutors: to have the prison terms run consecutively.
Kricken said the crime was “one of the more violent cases I’ve seen of late.”
Prosecutor Becky Farley said a lengthy prison sentence was necessary “to make sure that the community knows that this kind of behavior is not tolerated.”
“I do still think that Mr. Schorzman is an extreme danger to society,” Farley said. “He has saddled the victim and minor child with issues they’re going to deal with forever.”
Schorzman’s ex-girlfriend also testified Wednesday and had asked Kricken to impose the longest sentence possible “so we don’t have to live in fear.”
At his sentencing hearing, Schorzman’s attorneys described the attack as “out-of-character.”
Schorzman’s ex-girlfriend, however, said that that wasn’t the case.
“Cooper has always had a violent nature and a silver tongue to get him out of it,” she wrote in a victim impact statement. “He would lie often, telling people what he thought they wanted to hear, saying anything he needed to that would get him out of trouble.”
A therapist for Schorzman’s son also indicated the son said Schorzman inflicted physical abuse, verbal abuse and threats with a handgun upon the girlfriend.
In a victim impact statement to Kricken, Schorzman’s ex-girlfriend said that both she and her son continue to struggle with PTSD because of the attack.
“Four nights out of the week are spent going to therapy for my son and I,” she wrote.
After the attack, the ex-girlfriend moved out of Wyoming with their son. Schorzman didn’t fight having his paternity rights revoked.
Schorzman’s father, Sherman Schorzman, spoke of the toll the incident has taken on his family.
“I have a lot of difficulty understanding why Cooper did what he did that day,” he said. “Because of what Cooper did, we lost our grandson.”
Sherman Schorzman said that his son dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts throughout his teenage years.
Cooper’s brother killed himself in December, and Sherman Schorzman said he expected to eventually get a call stating that Cooper did the same.
“At one point, he lost his will to go on,” Sherman Schorzman said.
Now that his son is on medication, the defendant “has become the Cooper he was meant to be,” his father said.
“When he gets out, we will be there to make sure he has a future,” Sherman Schorzman said.