John Potter sitting between his attorneys Carrie Johnson and Devon Petersen in Riverton Circuit Court earlier last year. (Joshua Scheer photo)
(Lander, Wyo.) – John Ani Potter, 16, pleaded guilty this afternoon to Manslaughter and Aiding and Abetting Aggravated Assault and Battery in connection to the Sept. 4, 2013, death of David Moss Jr., 25, and the beating of Aleeah Crispin.
The guilty plea came pursuant to a plea agreement. Originally, Potter was charged with Second Degree Murder and Attempted Second Degree Murder. Santana Mendoza, the same age, is also charged with the crimes. His case remains sealed at this time.
Manslaughter is a felony and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines. The Aiding and Abetting charge, also a felony, is punishable up to 10 years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines. The plea agreement leaves sentencing at the discretion of the court, but both the prosecution and the defense agree to argue for a concurrent sentence, meaning he’d serve up to 20 years total for both crimes. However, Ninth District Court Judge Norman E. Young is not bound to have the sentences being concurrent.
Young accepted Potter’s guilty pleas and ordered a pre-sentence investigation. The formal sentencing will come at a later date.
Potter was required to give an account of the events on Sept. 4. In front of more than 30 attendees, Potter told Young that he turned 16 in December and has completed the 10th grade. He was still in school at the time of the crimes and is the middle child among two brothers and two sisters.
Prior to the attack, Potter said he had been hanging out at home playing video games. After a while he decided to meet up with a friend. While walking there, he said he ran into Mendoza and a couple others on the Rails to Trails pathway near the All Nations Trailer Park north of Riverton.
Potter said the two talked about football and school, and the two others, who Potter didn’t know, left. The pair went and got some McDonald’s.
On the way back, Potter said Mendoza asked him if he “wanted to help” with something. Mendoza allegedly asked Potter to knock a guy out and that “he’d (Mendoza) would take care of the girl.” Potter consented.
Potter said they took an aluminum bat from a home after dropping off the food.
He said they returned to the pathway and approached Moss and Crispin. He said the two soon-to-be-victims were “hanging out, chilling.” He said at one point Moss said to Mendoza, “Tell your mom hi.”
Then, Potter said Mendoza gave him the OK, and Potter kicked Moss and hit him with the bat and Mendoza began attacking Crispin. Potter said he then gave the bat to Mendoza and continued to hit Moss in the face. “I don’t know how many times,” he said. Eventually, Moss was reportedly knocked out and snoring. “He (Mendoza) was kicking the girl in the head,” Potter said.
The two left the victims and began walking away. Potter said Mendoza wanted to go back to give them “one more good kick.” He said Moss was starting to get up and Mendoza kicked him in the face. More striking then occurred against both victims. The two walked away and agreed not to say anything.
Young asked Potter if he would dispute the notion that his actions contributed to Moss’s death. He did not dispute that.
Deputy County Attorney Pat LeBrun told the court that Crispin suffered severe subdural hematoma and spent weeks recovering in Casper.