CV NEWS FEED // Shannon Brandt was sentenced to five years in prison last week for running over and killing 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson last September.
“The case quickly became controversial after an affidavit from police suggested that Brandt had run down Ellingson following a political disagreement, a claim investigators backtracked later after little evidence supported the assertion,” The Daily Wire reported.
The basis for this claim was Brandt’s own words in a 911 call. During that call, he attempted to explain his actions that eventually resulted in Ellingson’s death.
“He was threatening me with something to have to do with — something with an extremist Republican group,” Brandt said:
And then he made a phone call. He made a phone call saying, “I thought he was Republican (background noise) or something. You’re going have to come here and handle him.” I got scared to death. I didn’t know what to do.
Brandt, who is in his early 40s, pled guilty to manslaughter. Both he and Ellingson were from Foster County, ND, a rural, sparsely populated area. Just over 3,000 people live in the entire county.
According to his neighbors, the perpetrator was known for a while to be mentally unstable.
As The Daily Wire reported, “A state district court judge reportedly gave Brandt the sentencing with nearly a year of credit for time served under house arrest, including three years’ supervised probation and a yearlong suspension of his driver’s license. The maximum penalty for such charges is 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both.”
FOX News reported days after Ellingson’s death:
One neighbor said that Brandt has been “nuts his whole life” and “should have been in a [mental health] institute.”
The neighbor also said Brandt’s bail was “extremely low” for what he allegedly did, adding that it should have been higher, and saying that the 41-year-old “had too much to drink” the night of the incident. When Brandt is drunk, the neighbor alleged, he goes on “rampages.”
Four of Brandt’s neighbors agreed that his mental health contributed to the incident and said they don’t believe the incident was motivated by politics.
In his speech to the court before his sentencing, Brandt appeared to show remorse for his deadly actions.
“I’m here to take responsibility for the role I played in this tragedy,” he said. “I’m very sorry to the Ellingson family, my family, and anybody else that has been affected by my actions.”
“I have always enjoyed seeing the Ellingsons and would never have intentionally caused harm to any of them,” Brandt added. “I am truly devastated by the impact this has had on the entire community.”
His attorney, Mark Friese, took aim at what he called “false information making it into the media and people using this tragedy to advance their political platforms.”
Friese claimed that his client “is relieved to have finally been able to offer his apology and to allow the Ellingson family to move forward.”
However, the reaction of Ellingson’s mother, Sheri, conveyed a different reality.
“Shannon, you took a piece of our family that’s not replaceable,” she said:
When you chose to take Cayler’s life and happiness you took ours too. You have caused our family endless pain, heartache, sleepless nights. Our days, months, and years will never be the same because of your selfishness.
Sheri Ellingson unsuccessfully lobbied Judge Bradley Cruff to give Brandt 10 years in prison, the maximum sentence for manslaughter in the state of North Dakota.
Conservative commentator Collin Rugg criticized Brandt’s sentencing and hinted that his punishment would likely have been more severe if the political content of his 911 call were different.
Rugg compared the case to that of Enrique Tarrio, a right-wing activist who was recently given a much longer prison sentence of 22 years for “seditious conspiracy” related to the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Tarrio did not physically participate in the riot, and he was notedly not in Washington, D.C., during the entire day.
“Your ‘justice’ system at work,” wrote Rugg in a viral X (formerly known as Twitter) post that, in three days, received over six million views and 60,000 “likes.”