Since the State Public Defender's Office has removed Shelley Cundiff as Wyatt Bear Cloud's attorney, his replacement, Kerri M. Johnson of Casper, has filed a Motion for Withdrawal of Guilty Pleas to All Counts.
Documents sent to 4th Judicial District Court charge that at the September 8th Change of Plea hearing, the Court failed to advise Bear Cloud of the mandatory minimum and maximum penalties attendant to any plea of guilty. Nor did the Court, the documents say, conduct a careful plea hearing when it failed to advise Bear Cloud that it could impose consecutive sentences for each charge.
Under Wyoming law, being tried as an adult for First Degree Murder, Aggravated Burglary and Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Burglary, Bear Cloud faces a minimum of life on the murder charge and five years each on the burglary and conspiracy charges. His maximum sentence could be life in prison without the possibility of parole on the murder charge, and twenty-five years in prison for each of the other charges, to follow the life sentence – in other words, life plus fifty years.
The documents go on to say that "while the Court did ask Bear Cloud if he was entering his [guilty] pleas freely and voluntarily and he'd said, 'yes,' the Court did not further, in open court, first determine that the plea was voluntary and not the result of force or threats or of promises apart from a plea agreement."
“In this case,” Kerri Johnson wrote, “the Court did not take such care as was required in a First Degree murder case with a juvenile [Bear Cloud was 17 at the time of the plea change] who faced charges as an adult. She did indicate, however, that she is "not suggesting that Cundiff or [Hardy] Tate had [made threats or promises], but certainly advised him that his best chance for release was to plead guilty."
Johnson continues, writing that “the sentencing chances would be no different for Bear Cloud had he gone to trial, and as such he was improperly advised to plead guilty. Bear Cloud was under the erroneous belief, she wrote, that he will '100% be released someday,' making his pleas involuntary [and] unknowing...”
Bear Cloud was to be sentenced on November 30th; now, per a signed document dated September 22nd by Judge John Fenn, that date has been set for a Motion for Withdrawal of Guilty Pleas to All Counts, starting at 8:30 a.m.