A former Cody man, convicted of killing a Fremont County Sheriff’s deputy in 1995, has lost his appeal to have his life sentence removed because he wanted to rescind his guilty plea.
John Michael Sides Jr. pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences and a 3-5 year consecutive sentence.
Sides was 17 years old when he pleaded guilty to shooting and killing Deputy Steve Crerar. The deputy had been bringing him back to the Wyoming Boys’ School in Worland when Sides was able to remove one of his handcuffs and steal Crerar’s gun, fatally shooting him in the head. He also fired shots and hit another individual but did not kill them.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to sentence a minor to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and Sides made an appeal in 2013 to Washakie County district court on the matter. The court changed his sentence to two concurrent life sentences in 2019, meaning they are to run at the same time.
Sides was not allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, however, or address his claim that he was unconstitutionally denied parole by the state Board of Parole, to which they claimed lacking jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court also rejected Sides’ appeal from his Carbon County sentence for stabbing a Wyoming State Penitentiary teacher and another inmate after beginning his sentence for Crerar’s murder while still a minor. From this incident, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for attempted first-degree murder to which he pleaded not guilty, but guilty to a consecutive sentence of 6-10 years for aggravated assault and battery. He was given life in prison, to run consecutively with his earlier life sentence, with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Sides argued that when the cases were added together it amounted to an unconstitutional life sentence without the chance of parole.
In 2013, he appealed his sentencing in Carbon County and was granted the possibility of parole, as well as his charge for aggravated assault and battery to be reduced to 3-5 years. Essentially, Sides is now serving a 25-to-life sentence for his Carbon County crimes, which is consecutive to his 25-to-life sentence for his Washakie County crimes, and he is eligible for parole in both.
He also said his counsel was ineffective at the Carbon County resentencing, a motion that was denied in that county and by the Supreme Court.
In 1998 and 2015 Sides appealed this case. In the 1998 appeal, his attorney used the defense that Sides was already a killer and could have killed the teacher if he chose to, so the event didn’t qualify as premeditated.
In 2015, Sides was transferred to custody in Virginia from Nevada after safety concerns. He has received more than 30 citations while in custody and was accused of attacking another inmate with a deadly weapon in Nevada.