Cody psychiatrist convicted, sent to prison for DUI crash

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Matthew Hopkins began March 14, 2017, best known in the Cody area for his work as a psychiatrist. But things changed that morning, when Hopkins — high on inhalants — crashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle.

“The simple fact is that Mr. Hopkins will never be known in this community for the good work that he has done. That ship has sailed,” Hopkins’ defense attorney, Michael Bennett, said Wednesday. “He will always be known as that doctor that hit that lady.”

After a Monday-Tuesday trial, a Park County jury convicted Hopkins of a felony count of aggravated assault and battery and misdemeanor counts of driving while under the influence of a substance and unlawful use of a toxic substance.

On Wednesday morning, District Judge David Park ordered Hopkins to serve 18 to 36 months in prison for the offenses.

Bennett and some of Hopkins’ friends and associates had asked the judge to impose probation to help rehabilitate the 51-year-old. A probation and parole agent with the Wyoming Department of Corrections had also recommended probation.

“The system can help Dr. Hopkins through this time in his life. If we believe in rehabilitation, judge, we can do that without sending this man to prison — and that’s what we should do,” Bennett argued.

Deputy Park County Attorney Leda Pojman, meanwhile, asked for a six- to eight-year prison sentence. She cited Hopkins’ repeated relapses, which included drinking alcohol and purchasing inhalants while the case was pending. Despite attempts at treatment and access to help, “it just doesn’t work, your honor,” she said.

Pojman also called Hopkins’ conduct “unfathomable and appalling” for a “self-proclaimed pillar of the community,” citing reports he’d also been driving erratically when he dropped his son off at school that day.

Beyond imposing the 18- to 36-month sentence, Park did not elaborate on how he saw the case.

Though it went to trial, there was little dispute about what Hopkins did: After inhaling substances from a can of Dust-Off, Hopkins tried driving to his Cody office, but passed out and drifted over the 8th Street centerline into the wrong lane. His Toyota FJ Cruiser crashed into a Chevrolet truck driven by Jamie Bunker, knocking Bunker’s vehicle back about 15 feet.

At Wednesday’s sentencing, Bunker said she’s had continuing pain and undergone significant medical treatment. The Cody resident’s injuries have limited the work she can do and stretched her family’s finances, she said.

“I also have a hard time driving,” Bunker said, “thinking that every passing car is going to hit me.”

In her remarks, she wished Hopkins the best.

“I hope that Matthew Hopkins can get the help that he so needs,” she told Judge Park. “Because I fear that he could accidentally kill somebody — and I feel like my life is going to [possibly] be changed forever.”

A tearful Hopkins apologized, saying he would do anything he could to make amends.

“I feel so terrible about what I’ve done to you,” he told Bunker. “I’ve spent my whole life trying to help people, be a good doctor; I don’t hurt people, I help people.”

At trial, Hopkins did not contest his guilt to the DUI and unlawful use of a substance charges. The only real issue for the jury to determine was whether Hopkins had committed aggravated assault by “knowingly caus[ing] bodily injury to Jamie Bunker with a deadly weapon,” with the weapon being his Toyota.

Pojman argued that Hopkins, who she described as a “super smart doctor,” made a knowing choice to drive impaired.

“He knows the risk of huffing, but he still chose to voluntarily drive,” Pojman said.

Bennett, however, repeatedly described the aggravated assault charge as a square peg that prosecutors were trying to fit into a round hole, given the facts of the case.

“He [Hopkins] used inhalants; he’s guilty of DUI,” Bennett said. “But don’t find him guilty of aggravated assault. Don’t let them [prosecutors] do that.”

Jurors deliberated for roughly six hours before convicting Hopkins on all three counts.

Hopkins has long been an expert on addiction — through his training at Dartmouth and other locations as a psychiatrist and through personal struggles.

His medical license in New Hampshire was suspended in 2003 for writing himself prescriptions and the Wyoming Board of Medicine suspended his license from November 2011 to April 2012 for noncompliance with a monitoring program.

All license restrictions were removed in mid-2015, but a series of public relapses started in late 2016, following the death of Hopkins’ father. That November, Hopkins clipped a parked vehicle in Cody and then drove off. Prosecutors initially accused him of DUI in that case — though they later dropped it for lack of evidence — and he was awaiting a trial on that allegation when he hit Bunker.

Shortly after the March crash, Hopkins voluntarily suspended his medical license and he completed a drug treatment program in Minnesota.

However, he was re-arrested in late June 2017 after he fell on his bicycle; responding Cody police officers found his blood alcohol content was around 0.215 percent — more than two-and-a-half times the point at which a person is considered too intoxicated to drive.

“I can’t believe this happened to me,” Hopkins told a judge shortly after his arrest.

Krista Blough, a nurse practitioner who’s worked closely with Hopkins, said those remarks were a sign that “he still saw himself as a victim.”

But — after completing a different treatment program in Cheyenne last summer — Blough said there’s been a real change in his recovery.

“He understands that he’s the perpetrator, that his addiction made him the bad guy,” Blough said in court. “He did wrong and he openly admits it now for the first time in the years that I’ve known him.”

Blough urged Judge Park to put Hopkins on probation for a lengthy period of time, saying aggressive monitoring was key.

“... When he is sober, he is a productive member of society that continues to help the mental health community, that continues to be a father, a husband, a taxpayer,” she said.

She and others said Hopkins will never be able to practice as a psychiatrist again. He relinquished his Wyoming license in December and had recently been working to install sprinkler systems.

“I know addiction runs with no social class, economic class or monetary class at all and I think Matt [Hopkins] is a great example of that,” said Cindy Baldwin, a Cody businesswoman who spoke on Hopkins’ behalf. “[He’s gone from] being at the very top of his class, even one of the top citizens in Park County and in the state of Wyoming to sitting in front of you today in the state he’s sitting in front of you as — in orange, handcuffed, being taking into the courts and into jail.”

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