Man convicted of aggravated assault for 2020 vehicle crash

Posted 1/18/22

After hearing four days of evidence and arguments, jurors convicted a Cody man of aggravated assault and battery for crashing into an oncoming vehicle while impaired in 2020. The four people in the …

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Man convicted of aggravated assault for 2020 vehicle crash


After hearing four days of evidence and arguments, jurors convicted a Cody man of aggravated assault and battery for crashing into an oncoming vehicle while impaired in 2020. The four people in the vehicle he hit suffered serious injuries.

Because of Kenneth W. Stone’s prior felony convictions, prosecutors are pursuing an enhanced sentence of somewhere between 10 and 50 years in prison.

Stone, who’d been free on a $250,000 bond, was taken into custody following a Friday morning court hearing. He’ll be sentenced by District Court Judge Bobbi Overfield at a later date.

While Stone’s defense attorney, Nick Beduhn, declined to comment on whether they’ll appeal the verdict, Stone’s wife launched a $100,000 fundraising campaign on the website GoFundMe over the weekend to cover past and future legal expenses. She reiterated Stone’s arguments at trial — that he was effectively in a trance caused by his prescribed sleeping medication; Stone testified he had no memory of getting into his truck the day of the crash.

“... Our hearts pour out to the 4 people in the other car. But we do not agree that this was a violent crime,” Annette Stone wrote. “This accident was caused by a medical incident — specifically by the use of Ambien by my husband.”

However, Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield argued at trial that Stone, 61, did know what he was doing. Hatfield contended that Stone downplayed how much alcohol he’d consumed in an interview with law enforcement after the crash and asked a paramedic if he’d killed anybody.

After a couple hours of deliberations Thursday night, the 12-member jury unanimously voted to convict Stone of aggravated assault.

The basic facts of the case were not in dispute: In October 2020, Stone went over the centerline  in his Ford Ranger and into the oncoming lane of traffic on U.S. Highway 14/16/20 west of Cody. He crashed head-on into an westbound Dodge Charger that contained four out-of-state residents on a trip to Yellowstone National Park. They and Stone suffered serious injuries, with the occupants of the Charger suffering fractured arms, a fractured wrist, a cracked rib, a dislocated shoulder and two broken vertebrae; one woman had to be flown to a Billings hospital via helicopter.

Law enforcement officers and other first responders found that Stone appeared to be in a “trance-like state” and concluded he was impaired. Stone told authorities he’d drank alcohol and taken sleeping medication and other prescriptions the night before the crash, with testing finding those substances in his blood. Mixing Ambien and alcohol can result in dangerous side effects, including confusion and dizziness, health experts say.

A sample taken about three hours after the 9 a.m. crash pegged Stone’s blood alcohol content at 0.021%. That’s below the 0.08% mark at which a person is presumed to be impaired, but Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Lee Pence said Stone’s BAC was likely “much higher” at the time of the crash.

Prosecutors initially charged Stone with an additional felony count of driving while under the influence causing serious bodily injury, but later focused solely on the aggravated assault charge, which carries stiffer penalties. To convict Stone, the prosecution had to prove Stone “did knowingly cause bodily injury … with a deadly weapon,” with the weapon being his truck.

The county attorney’s office also charged Stone as a “habitual criminal,” citing prior felony convictions. One was for altering a section of an Arizona river with explosives in 1994. Then while awaiting sentencing in that case, Stone fled to Australia with more than $145,000 he’d fraudulently borrowed from credit card companies and other lenders. He eventually served a 42-month federal prison sentence.

More trouble followed in Park County in 2017, after Stone obtained an archery license to hunt black bear. However, he mistakenly killed a federally protected grizzly and, investigators later found, used a rifle to do it. That resulted in another federal felony for illegally possessing a firearm.

Under Wyoming law, a person who’s been convicted of two or more separate felonies and then commits a new, violent felony — such as aggravated assault — can be prosecuted as a “habitual criminal.”

Hatfield had previously indicated he might seek a life sentence for Stone, which is the penalty spelled out in state law for a habitual criminal with three prior felony convictions, but the lawyers instead struck a deal. Stone admitted to two prior felonies and Hatfield took the possibility of a life sentence off the table, leaving the parties to pursue a sentence in the 10- to 50-year range. The exact punishment and any fines will be up to Judge Overfield at a future hearing.

As part of the deal, Stone agreed to pay any restitution sought by the victims of the crash and all allowable costs of prosecution; Hatfield said the state’s total costs will likely come to around $25,000, with an expert from a private lab who testified about the amounts of controlled substances in Stone’s system costing around $13,000.

In her GoFundMe post, Annette Stone said the family has “already incurred numerous expenses to date (our legal fees, the prosecutions costs, restitution) — and anticipate a lot more down the road as we do what we can to make things better for Ken [Stone].” As of Monday afternoon, $3,350 had been raised toward the campaign’s $100,000 goal.

She also complained of “overzealous prosecution in the choice of charges,” called Wyoming’s habitual criminal law unconstitutional and said her husband should not be facing a lengthy prison sentence.

“He is not a danger to anyone,” she wrote.

At sentencing, Stone and his supporters will have an opportunity to address the court — as will the prosecution and the four victims who were injured in the crash.