EVANSTON — A former Evanston resident has been sentenced to two to five years in prison for aggravated assault and battery and sexual battery. Dustin Hughes, 22, was sentenced in Third District Court on Thursday, Jan. 14, via video conferencing.
Hughes was initially charged in April of last year, at which time he was charged with two counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of aggravated assault and battery. Wyoming statutes include a penalty of 5-50 years for first-degree sexual assault and up to 10 years for aggravated assault and battery. The charges were the result of an investigation into an event that occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, 2020.
According to an affidavit filed in the case, the Evanston Police Department was contacted by staff at a local hotel on Feb. 15, after housekeepers found bedding in a room “covered in blood and hair.” Hotel staff reported that Hughes had rented that room at approximately 2:30 a.m., when he was accompanied by a woman. That woman had reportedly been seen leaving the hotel about an hour later and “was acting very distraught.” About 20 minutes after the woman left, a Latino male had reportedly gone to the hotel demanding to know which room Hughes was in. When staff explained they were unable to give out room numbers, the man told them Hughes had raped someone in the hotel room.
Evanston Police Detective Scott Faddis contacted Hughes, who had listed his phone number on the registration. Hughes gave Faddis the identity of the woman who had accompanied him and said the two had sex; he reportedly told Faddis the blood on the bedding was due to the woman being on her menstrual cycle.
However, when questioned by officers, the woman gave a far different story. When Faddis went to the woman’s residence, he found her crying, with bruises on her throat. She said Hughes had sexually assaulted her but she was reluctant to report it out of fear others learning of the incident.
After ensuring her the information would be confidential, the victim agreed to go to Evanston Regional Hospital for a sexual assault examination.
According to the affidavit, that examination revealed the woman’s body was “covered with bruises” and there were pelvic injuries consistent with her statement about being sexually assaulted. On two subsequent occasions, the victim was interviewed by investigators with the EPD. She told them she knew Hughes and had run into him at a local bar on the night of Feb. 14. The two had mutual friends and she said he invited her back to the hotel to have drinks with friends after the bar closed.
She said after they arrived at the hotel, however, they were not joined by others and Hughes started kissing her and “threw” her on the bed. The victim said she attempted to get Hughes to stop; however, he aggressively tore her clothes off and forced himself on her, “grabbed her by the arms, strangled her … and threw her around like a rag doll.” She said he strangled her so forcefully she had difficulty breathing and “was seeing spots.” She said after he sexually assaulted her, Hughes passed out, at which time she got dressed and left the hotel, calling a friend to come pick her up. It was that friend who had gone to the hotel demanding Hughes’s room number.
As to Hughes’s claims that the sex was consensual and that the woman was on her menstrual cycle, the victim told investigators she was on birth control that prevented her from menstruating. The victim’s friend told investigators that when he picked her up immediately after the assault, she had bruises on her throat and arm.
When investigators called Hughes in for questioning, he initially told them the victim had wanted to have rough sex and had asked him to pull her hair, choke her and spank her; however, he had not felt comfortable choking or hitting her. However, later during the interview he reportedly changed his story and told them that he had choked and hit her but denied doing so forcefully enough to leave any bruises.
In December 2020, Hughes appeared in Third District Court and changed his plea to no contest to the charge of aggravated assault and battery and a reduced charge of sexual battery through a plea agreement with the Uinta County Attorney’s office. The other count of first-degree sexual assault was dismissed through the plea agreement.
Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson-Kallas said the agreement was that Hughes would serve two to five years of incarceration for the aggravated assault and battery charge and 180 days for the reduced sexual battery count, to be served concurrently. Third District Court Judge Joseph Bluemel accepted the no-contest pleas in December and scheduled a sentencing hearing on Thursday, Jan. 14.
During last week’s hearing, Howieson-Kallas argued in favor of the plea agreement by noting Hughes had no prior criminal history and is very young; however, she also described the attack as “extraordinarily violent” and argued it was appropriate for Hughes to be removed from society for a period of time. Both Howieson-Kallas and Bluemel noted, as they frequently have in other sexual assault cases, that securing a conviction and a prison sentence without forcing a victim to testify in front of a jury was also a motivating factor in reaching a plea agreement.
Though Hughes’s attorney, Richard Mulligan, said Hughes had requested his sentence to begin on Feb. 15 of this year, to give him time to spend with his family prior to being incarcerated, Bluemel denied that request and ordered Hughes to report to the Uinta County Detention Center by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 14 for transfer to the Wyoming State Penitentiary. Hughes was also ordered to pay approximately $5,200 in restitution for medical bills incurred by the victim, along with hundreds of dollars in legal and court fees.
Hughes was also ordered to have no contact with the victim, including through social media or any type of social media discussion about the case. Unlike sexual assault, a conviction for sexual battery means Hughes will not have to register as a convicted sex offender.