An extraordinarily light punishment awaits a North Dakota man who pled guilty to running over and killing a teenager he believed to be “part of a Republican extremist group.”
Last September, 41-year-old Shannon Brandt called 911 to report he had hit a pedestrian in McHenry early on a Sunday morning. Why?
The two had reportedly had a political argument and Brandt, who admitted to drinking before the incident, believed that 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson was “coming to get him.” He proceeded to then run over the teenager with his car.
It was less than a month earlier when President Joe Biden used his bully pulpit to charge that “MAGA Republicans” were dangerous “extremists.” He called them “a threat to this country” in his primetime speech.
Authorities said Brandt left the horrific scene but then returned to call 911. However, he left again before law enforcement arrived. Brandt was first charged with vehicular manslaughter, but that charge was subsequently upgraded to murder.
Ellingson called his mother before being run over and asked if she knew who Brant was.
Breaking: Shannon Brandt, the man who ran over and killed 18 year old Cayler Ellingson in 2022 after Brandt claimed Ellingson was a “right wing extremist” has had his sentence reduced from Murder and leaving the scene of the crime to manslaughter. He now only faces up to 10… pic.twitter.com/Rf3ezmRrlg
— 🇺🇸Travis🇺🇸 (@Travis_in_Flint) May 19, 2023
She said she did and was leaving to pick her son up.
However, it was just a short time later when Ellingson called his mom again and told her that “he” or “they” were pursuing him. That was the last time she spoke with her son.
The move to charge Brandt with murder did not stick. Prosecutors downgraded the charge to manslaughter and Brandt avoided an explosive trial that was set to begin on May 30.
Brandt’s attorney gave a detailed explanation of why his client accepted the plea deal. Mark Friese related to WDAY Radio Now that the plea was in part “to protect the involved families from the adversariness of trial.”
He said his client was unaware until very recently of the prosecutor’s intention to downgrade the charge, which came with the lenient maximum sentence.
He added that Brandt “never denied responsibility for his part in this tragic accident.”
The medical examiner, Dr. Kevin Maley, found through an autopsy that Ellingson was not killed from being struck by Brandt’s vehicle. Rather, he died from “being run over.”