Riverton man pleads not guilty to child abuse in connection to alleged DUI wreck

(Lander, Wyo.) – A 24-year-old Riverton man pleaded not guilty this afternoon to child abuse and other charges stemming from an alleged drunken driving wreck on May 3.

Joseph Kaz Babcock entered not guilty pleas to the following charges in the Ninth District Court this afternoon: felony child abuse, two counts of endangering children and two alternative charges of Driving Under the Influence with a Child Passenger. The child abuse charge is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and each of the other is punishable by a maximum one year each. If convicted of all charges, Babcock could serve a maximum of eight years. He can only be convicted of one DUI charge.

Fremont County and Prosecuting Attorney Michael Bennett moved to drop three other misdemeanor charges against Babcock. Those were Stop Sign Violation, Open Container and Child Safety Restraint. Bennett said given the seriousness of the child abuse charge, the minor crimes were “unnecessary.” He also said he is opposed to “piling on” charges.

Judge Norman E. Young said he “tended to agree,” and dismissed the three charges.

Babcock bond was loosened a little from $10,000 cash only to $10,000 cash or surety.

Babcock was reportedly operating a 2000 Ford Explorer southbound on North Portal Road on the evening of May 3 when he failed to stop at the intersection of Highway 134, causing the vehicle to collide with a ditch and other obstacles. The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office reported at the time that a 3-year-old boy was seriously injured in the wreck. A second minor was also reportedly in the vehicle. According to the affidavit in the case, Babcock had a .229 percent BAC at the scene. The legal limit for operating a motor vehicle is .08 percent.

A Fort Washakie firefighter, who was the first to the scene, reportedly told deputies that he saw Babcock hiding something in the weeds. Deputies found a three-quarters empty bottle of peppermint schnapps.

One of the children reportedly had a fractured femur and was flown to Denver for additional treatment.