The North Dakota man who admitted to mowing down a teenager with his SUV last September because he thought the boy was a “rightwing extremist” is facing a maximum of only ten years in prison after the prosecutor dropped the charge from murder to manslaughter.
Shannon Brandt, 42, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge, avoiding a trial which was set to start on May 30, KVRR reported.
The victim, Cayler Ellingson, 18, had attended a street dance in the Foster County community earlier that night.
Shortly before the incident, according to court documents, Ellingson called his mother to ask if she knew who Shannon Brandt was. His mother told the boy that she was on the way to pick him up. In a second call, Ellingson told his mom that Brandt was chasing him. By the time she arrived, it was too late. Brandt had run over her son with his SUV in an alleyway, killing him.
An autopsy found that Ellingson was on the ground when he suffered his fatal injuries, meaning “the injuries weren’t caused from being struck by Shannon Brandt’s vehicle and were caused by being run over,” according to Dr. Kevin Maley, the medical examiner.
Brandt told police that he believed the teen was a member of a Republican “extremist” group. He fled the scene, and law enforcement later arrested him at his home. Police said Brandt admitted to consuming alcohol prior to the incident, and the results of a breathalyzer test were above the legal limit.
Brandt was released just a few days later after State’s Attorney Kara Brinster recommended to the court only $50,000 bail and daily sobriety monitoring. He was initially charged with criminal vehicular homicide, which has a 20 year maximum sentence, and criminal failure to report an accident that involves injury or death, which has a 10 year maximum sentence. On Sept. 30, the State upgraded the charge to murder.
Had the case had gone to trial, the defense would have presented evidence of Brandt’s autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, according to a brief filed Thursday, Inforum reported.
That same brief said Brandt called his parents multiple times the morning of the crash claiming Ellingson was threatening him.
“Mr. Brandt’s parents will testify Mr. Brandt was terrified, beyond any level of fear they had observed in him over 42 years,” the defense’s brief said
Prosecutors tried to prevent the defense from presenting information on Brandt’s diagnosis to a jury.
Ellingson’s family said the accusations made against their son were baseless and a form of victim-blaming. Ellingson also called his parents before the crash, saying someone was after him.
Court documents alleged Brandt had consumed “10 to 13 beers at the bar prior to the crash.” An autopsy report showed Ellingson had a blood alcohol concentration over 0.2 percent.
While there is no clear picture about what precipitated the deadly attack, both sides reportedly agreed the two parties were in a “drunken verbal fight.”
According to Brandt’s attorney, Mark Friese, Brinster amended the charges from murder to manslaughter earlier this month on her own accord. The defense attorney said the dropped charge was not a part of any plea deal. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident.
The incident happened just three weeks after Joe Biden claimed in his infamous “red sermon” that “MAGA extremists” were a “threat to this country.”
During a primetime address from Philadelphia on September 1, Biden declared that “there’s no question that the Republican party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.” He also accused Republican “extremists” of “promoting authoritarian leaders, and fanning “the flames of political violence.”
“They are a threat to our personal rights and to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country,” the 80-year-old wheezed. Critics immediately slammed the speech as a dangerous dog-whistle to radical leftists to attack conservatives.