Mathew Sides, 29, entered an Alford plea in Richmond County Superior Court in 2011 to a charge of violation of oath of office. An Alford plea means the defendant doesn’t admit to the crime, but he acknowledges there was enough evidence for a jury to convict.
Judge Michael N. Annis sentenced Sides to five years of probation under the First Offender Act.
Two years later, Sides returned to court to ask for his probation to be ended because he has a job opportunity in Florida as a computer analyst with a defense contractor. He can’t take the job while under probation.
Sides was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after encountering a couple in a parked car about 3 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2010. The sexual assault charge against him was dropped in the plea negotiation.
According to a police report from Sides’ arrest, he ordered the 22-year-old woman and her boyfriend to get out of the car, looked at her ID and told her the only way for her to avoid going to jail was “to get naked.”
The woman took her clothes off, and Sides touched her inner thigh, according to a report. Sides then allowed the couple to leave. The woman later reported what happened, and the investigation was turned over to the sheriff’s office’s criminal investigation division.
Testifying on Sides’ behalf Thursday were a psychologist who recently evaluated him, his father-in-law, one of his ministers and his wife. They spoke of Sides’ good character and urged that he be given another chance. Fifteen others came to court also willing to testify for Sides.
But the victim asked the judge not to grant Sides’ request. He never accepted responsibility by admitting to what he did, she said, and he never apologized. That, in a way, was the most hurtful, she said.
“You broke my spirit,” she said from the witness stand Thursday. “He was a police officer. He was supposed to protect. He did more damage than you can imagine.”
Her mother told the judge the happy-go-lucky woman that her daughter once was is gone. She can’t bear an affectionate touch from anyone, even her own mother. She can’t trust anyone and still has nightmares, her mother said.
“This man has almost destroyed my child,” she said.
Sides also asked the court to quash his probation officer’s recommendation that he attend a sexual offender counseling program, but Annis said he would not second-guess the probation officer’s judgment.