Judge Rejects Plea Deal for Mills Man Accused of Attacking Son for Being Gay
A Natrona County District judge on Thursday rejected a proposed plea agreement in the case of a Mills man facing four charges after allegedly attacking his son because of the victim's sexual orientation.
Manuel Thomas Runion, 41, is charged with aggravated assault, felony child abuse and strangulation of a household member, as well as one misdemeanor count of domestic battery. He could face up to 25 years, six months imprisonment if convicted on all charges.
Runion was arrested after a November incident in which he allegedly beat his son and held a knife to the boy's throat, threatening to "cut his throat because he is a [expletive removed]," according to court documents.
"[The victim] explained that his father disagrees with his sexuality and felt that 'gays' should not exist," an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant reads.
Runion appeared before District Judge Catherine Wilking on Thursday in order to change his plea in the case, having reached an agreement with prosecutors.
The proposed plea deal, as outlined by Assistant District Attorney Trevor Schenk, would have seen Runion plead guilty to the child abuse and domestic battery charges, in exchange for the dismissal of the aggravated assault and strangulation counts.
Under the deal, the state would have recommended that Runion be sentenced to time served for the domestic battery charge. As to the child abuse charge, the state would have argued for a suspended prison sentence of four to five years, with Runion instead being placed on three years of supervised probation.
At the sentencing hearing, Schenk would have been able to ask that Runion be placed on intensive supervised probation or complete a program at the Casper Re-Entry Center, and that he be jailed until his acceptance at CRC.
But Wilking told Schenk and Runion's public defender, Joseph Cole, that she would not accept the agreement as outlined, due to the circumstances of the case as presented in court documents.
Wilking ordered the case reset for trial. Runion remains free on bond.
Neither the Natrona County District Attorney's Office nor Cole were immediately available to comment. Should either party elect to comment, this story will be updated.