Shannon Joseph Brandt pleads to killing Cayler Ellingson

Shannon Joseph Brandt and Cayler Ellingson (Foster County Sheriff: GoFundMe)

A 42-year-old man in North Dakota will likely spend several years behind bars after he admitted to running down an 18-year-old in his SUV. Shannon Joseph Brandt, who allegedly told authorities the teenager was a “Republican extremist,” pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of manslaughter in the death of Cayler Ellingson, court documents reviewed by Law&Crime show.

Brandt was initially charged in September 2022 with one count of vehicular homicide and released on $50,000 bond. Days after he was released, Brandt was arrested again and charged with murder, with prosecutors saying that an investigation conducted by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the Foster County Sheriff’s Department, and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation supported such a charge.

Then last month, prosecutors in the Foster County State’s Attorney’s Office downgraded the charges against Brandt to one count of felony manslaughter and one count of felony leaving the scene of a crash. He pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge in exchange for prosecutors agreeing to drop the latter charge.

In an email to The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Brandt’s attorney said his client was taking accountability for his actions.

“Shannon has never denied responsibility for his part in this tragic accident,” Brandt’s attorney, Mark Friese, reportedly wrote in an email to the newspaper. “A plea of guilty permits him to accept responsibility while limiting the stress and emotional toll for all involved.”

In another email to Fox News Digital, Friese also denied that his client’s actions were motivated by political ideology, saying that investigators initially got it wrong. Notably, prosecutors never alleged that Brandt was motivated by politics.

Shannon Joseph Brandt pleads to killing Cayler Ellingson

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