Man Pleads Guilty To Manslaughter After Killing Teen He Thought Was ‘Republican Extremist’


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A North Dakota man who admitted to running down an 18-year-old because he thought the teen was a “Republican extremist” pleaded guilty to manslaughter Thursday, avoiding a criminal trial.

Shannon Brandt, 42, pleaded guilty to manslaughter Thursday for fatally running down teenager Cayler Ellingson with his vehicle in September 2022.

Brandt told authorities at the time of the incident that he believed Ellingson was part of a “Republican extremist group” and feared “they were coming to get him”. Brandt was reportedly under the influence of alcohol at the time and had just engaged in a political argument with the teen. (RELATED: ‘How Is Joe Biden Not Guilty?’: Jesse Waters Calls Out Biden’s Rhetoric After Politically Motivated Killing)

Brandt was initially charged with vehicular homicide, but the charge was upgraded to murder after a judge overseeing a preliminary hearing in December ruled Brandt had intentionally driven his car forward, hitting and killing Ellingson, according to Valley News Live. Those charges were amended at the beginning of May to manslaughter, a change that influenced Brandt’s decision to plead guilty, his lawyer said.

“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,” Brandt’s lawyer, Mark Friese, said in a written statement to WDAY Radio Now.

Friese believes witness testimony to prosecutors influenced their decision to downgrade the charges. Friese added that Brandt’s decision to plead guilty was centered on a desire to protect the families affected by the incident from a trial that was likely to be turbulent.

“Shannon was prepared for trial and anxious to present his account of the incident.  Trials in emotional cases are always difficult for everyone.  And the decision to enter a plea of guilty must always be made deliberately,” Friese explained.

Although Brandt has plead guilty to manslaughter, sentencing has not yet been carried out. He faces up to 10 years for the felony charge, WDAY Radio Now reported.