The 42-year-old North Dakota man who admitted to killing 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson by running him over with his SUV because he was “part of a Republican extremist group,” faces a maximum of just ten years in prison.
Shannon Brandt was initially charged with vehicular manslaughter, but prosecutors upgraded the charge to murder in September.
Brandt said he was afraid Ellingson was “part of a Republican extremist group and that he was afraid they were ‘coming to get him,’” according to reports. He then hit and ran over Ellingson with his car, killing him.
As Valley News Live reported at the time:
After visiting the scene where the incident happened, deputies went to Brandt’s house in Glenfield, ND, which is about 12 minutes from the crash scene. Brandt admitted to consuming alcohol before the incident, and stated he hit Ellingson with his car because he had a political argument with him. Brandt also admitted to deputies that he initially left the crash scene, then returned to call 911, but left again before deputies could arrive.
Court documents say just before the crash, Ellingson called his mom and asked if they knew who Brandt was. She said yes, and told her son she was on her way to pick him up. A short time later, court documents say Ellingson called his mom again to say that “he” or “they” were chasing him. It was after the second call that Ellingson could not be reached.
However, prosecutors amended Brandt’s charge to manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. Brandt entered a guilty plea on the manslaughter charges this week, avoiding a trial that was set to start on May 30.
Brandt’s attorney, Mark Friese, told WDAY Radio Now his client entered the guilty plea partially “to protect the involved families from the adversariness of trial.”
Several factors influenced Shannon’s decision. First, the prosecution amended the charge from homicide to manslaughter. We were unaware of their intention to do so until shortly before they did. Secondly, the prosecution deposed three of the defense witnesses last week. I suspect this provided a much clearer picture of the events for the prosecution, and likely influenced their decision to agree to further amend count 1 and to dismiss count 2. Third was his desire to protect the involved families from the adversariness of trial. Shannon has never denied responsibility for his part in this tragic accident. A plea of guilty permits him to accept responsibility while limiting the stress and emotional toll for all involved
As American Greatness reported:
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.
Ellingson’s death came less than one month after President Joe Biden used the weight of his presidency to paint “MAGA Republicans” as dangerous “extremists” and “white supremacists.”
“There is 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,” Biden said in a politically fueled primetime address.