A Wheatland man is facing up to 16 years in prison after he was convicted of seriously injuring an 8-month-old boy.

Nathen Wright, 31, pleaded no contest Monday to child abuse-recklessly causing great bodily harm.

The charge would normally carry a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years of initial incarceration, but because Wright had a previous felony conviction, he could be sentenced to up to 16 years.

As part of his plea agreement, the state reduced the charge from “intentionally” causing harm to “recklessly” causing harm.

Wright has been in custody since Sept. 6.

According to the criminal complaint, Wright was watching his girlfriend’s children — the baby and a 2-year-old — when he called 911 to report the baby was not responding.

Baby was limp

When paramedics arrived, Wright “handed over a limp baby” who was “opening and closing his eyes very slowly and taking quick, troubled breaths.”

The baby was taken to a local hospital then taken by Flight for Life helicopter to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin where he was treated for a head injury.

The criminal complaint states the baby had a brain injury that a doctor said is consistent with a car accident or when a child is “violently slammed, shaken or thrown.”

There was also evidence of an earlier injury on the left side of the brain that would have occurred at least a week earlier, along with several small bruises and abrasions on the baby’s back, chest, abdomen and cheek.

According to the criminal complaint, when emergency crews arrived, Wright was screaming, “I didn’t do anything wrong,” and, “I didn’t toss him that hard.”

Wright initially told investigators the baby had fallen forward and hit his head on the ground while sitting, and that later in the day the baby went limp while Wright was playing with the infant and throwing him in the air.

Story changes

In an interview with a detective three days later, Wright changed his story when confronted with medical evidence.

“I know I shook him,” he said, according to the criminal complaint, saying he had held the baby under his arms and shook him about a dozen times back and forth, according to the complaint.

He said it was the first time he had watched the two youngest children by himself.

The complaint states that Wright told a detective that, after shaking the baby, he drank six or seven shots of whiskey. He said he put the baby down for a nap and said that later he dropped him while swinging him, saying he believed that “was the kicker.”

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Krejarek said the baby suffered permanent effects from his injuries.

Wright is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 1.

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