A former psychologist in Gillette, who had initially pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges, changed his plea to no contest in District Court on Thursday.
As part of a plea agreement, Joshua Popkin, 33, pleaded no contest to two second-degree sexual assault charges, and Judge Thomas W. Rumpke dismissed a third charge.
County Attorney Ron Wirthwein recommends a 365-day split sentence served in county jail and 10 years of supervised probation, which can be transferred to New York.
Defense attorney Christina Williams can argue for a shorter sentence at Popkin’s sentencing, which will be at 3 p.m. Jan. 11. Williams asked that she be able to bring forward witnesses to aid her argument for a lesser sentence.
The charges against Popkin stem from two cases in which he was accused of using his position of authority as a psychologist to have sex with two women, who were his patients.
In one of the two cases, Popkin pleaded not guilty to one count of second-degree assault in December 2016.
He met the alleged victim while he was an intern at Campbell County Health in 2015 and while she was seeking treatment for mental health issues related to a previous rape by an assailant elsewhere, according to court documents.
While continuing to serve as her psychologist, he made increasingly sexual advances toward her until one night in June 2016, he had sex with her.
Previously, Popkin had sex with another patient, according to court documents. The woman said she had met Popkin at CCH while seeking counseling for depression in December 2015. She then became his patient, and in February 2016, Popkin had sex with her on two occasions.
Popkin was arrested in April on two counts of second-degree sexual assault in that case and released on bond.
A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but judges treat it as one and find the defendant guilty. It is up to the judge to decide whether to accept recommendations from the plea agreement.
Each second-degree sexual assault charge has a penalty of two to 20 years and up to $10,000 in fines.
Because of the criminal proceedings against him, the Wyoming Board of Psychology asked Popkin to surrender his license, and he is now unable to get a license in any state.
Popkin will remain out on bond until his sentencing. Rumpke did not change Popkin’s bond conditions, but emphasized that Popkin cannot act as a therapist for anyone in an unsupervised environment.
“We have people who appear in court all the time who are unauthorized to practice law, but it doesn’t stop them from doing it, and so I’m putting in place that you can’t do anything untoward and put yourself in those conditions,” Rumpke said.
Popkin plans to have his probation transferred to New York and asked to be allowed to travel to New York, so he can set up residency there. Rumpke asked him to file a request for the travel by Oct. 13.