CASPER, Wyo. — A Casper man pleaded guilty on Thursday to destroying property within Wyoming Medical Center back in early March when he opened fire within the facility. He will still stand trial next week on two remaining charges.
On Monday, Mitchell Taylor, 20, will begin trial for two counts of aggravated assault. In previous court appearances earlier this year, Taylor pleaded not guilty and said that he was high on LSD and suicidal on March 4, when he broke into the hospital early that morning. Taylor is accused of pointing the gun at two employees and firing a total of seven times, missing both hospital workers but damaging property in the facility.
Court-appointed defense attorney Joe Cole told Judge Daniel Forgey that Taylor was pleading guilty to property destruction because he wanted to be held accountable for the charge he's guilty of. Cole explained that his client didn't want to tell next week's jury that he was not guilty of destroying property when he was. Cole also noted that there's video footage of Taylor pulling the trigger and that "there's no way you cannot know you're going to destroy property" when you fire a gun inside a building.
Taylor faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the property destruction count. Although defendants will sometimes bargain with prosecutors for certain sentencing recommendations as a condition of a guilty plea, there was no mention of such an agreement Thursday afternoon. Cole told the Star-Tribune on Thursday morning that he had not negotiated any favorable sentencing conditions in connection with the plea.
At the Thursday afternoon hearing, Taylor told the judge that he was in Wyoming Medical Center the night of the incident and that he didn't have permission to be there.
Forgey asked him what caused the damage.
"Use of LSD, sir," Taylor replied.
Cole leaned over and whispered to Taylor. The judge was asking about what literally caused the damage.
"Me pulling the trigger," Taylor corrected.
"Of what?" Forgey asked.
"A firearm," Taylor finished.
The damage to a door and wall caused by the bullets is in excess of $6,000, Cole said.
Taylor appeared in court in an orange jumpsuit and shackles on Thursday. But at the trial he'll be in street clothes without visible restraints, Forgey ordered.
Another charge against Taylor, possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent, was dismissed Monday. During that same hearing, prosecutors also successfully argued that Cole couldn't tell jurors about Taylor's alleged LSD use before the incident at Wyoming Medical Center. Taylor has maintained that at the time he was high on the drug (LSD), which is why he says he was at the hospital in the first place.