On Monday, the North Dakota man accused of running over a teenager he deemed to be a "Republican extremist" had his charges reduced to manslaughter.
Shannon Brandt, 42, was originally charged with murder, a Class AA felony, over the death of 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson in McHenry last September.
According to the Associated Press, Foster County State Attorney Kara Brinster's decision to reduce the charges was not part of a plea deal, and Brandt is still expected to appear in court for trial beginning May 30.
"There is no evidence to support the misplaced allegation of intentional homicide,” Brandt's lawyer Mark Friese said. "The state and defense forensic experts have provided comprehensive reports confirming this tragedy was an accident. Misplaced media hype and community conjecture is no substitute for evidence."
An autopsy found that Ellingson's injuries "weren't caused from being struck by Shannon Brandt's vehicle and were caused by being run over."
As the Associated Press reports, investigators claim that the incident was not politically motivated, and that Ellingson was not part of a "Republican extremist" group, as Brandt originally said.
Following the incident, Brandt returned to the scene and called 911 on himself, but failed to stay until they arrived, opting instead to go back home. As a result, he was also charged with "fail[ing] to render aid as required" by North Dakota law.
Police soon caught up with Brandt, who had admitted to having consumed alcohol prior to the incident, and arrested him for driving under the influence. A chemical test later confirmed that he had, in fact, been over the legal limit.
With a murder charge, Brandt could have faced life in prison, however, if he's found guilty of manslaughter, the maximum penalty is ten years.
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