In a shocking case that caught national attention, Shannon Brandt of Glenfield, North Dakota, has been sentenced to five years in prison for the death of 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson. The incident occurred after a small-town street dance in September 2022 in McHenry, North Dakota. The case gained even more attention when Brandt initially claimed that Ellingson was a “Republican extremist” who threatened him during a political argument.
Brandt pleaded guilty to manslaughter in May, after initially being charged with criminal vehicular homicide and later murder. He was also charged with leaving the scene of the fatality, which was dismissed in a plea deal. According to prosecutor Kara Brinster, Brandt had been drinking before the argument with Ellingson, and after a verbal altercation, he struck Ellingson with his SUV, driving over his torso and legs.
The case took a political turn when Brandt falsely claimed that Ellingson was part of a radical group and had threatened him due to their differing political beliefs. This led to a social media outcry and even caught the attention of former President Donald Trump, who denounced the supposed political circumstances surrounding Ellingson's death during a rally.
During the sentencing, Cayler Ellingson's mother emotionally expressed her grief and loss, stating, "You took a piece of our family that's not replaceable." She urged the judge to hand down the maximum sentence of 10 years for manslaughter. Despite the plea agreement, the judge acknowledged Brandt's autism diagnosis, which experts believe caused an exaggerated reaction in the situation, but emphasized that Brandt's actions still resulted in Ellingson's death.
In his statement to the court, Brandt expressed remorse and took responsibility for his role in the tragedy. He apologized to the Ellingson family, his own family, and the community affected by his actions. Brandt's defense attorney, Mark Friese, stated that Brandt was relieved that the matter was concluded and that those affected by the tragedy can begin to heal.
The sentencing includes five years in state prison with credit for the nearly year served, followed by three years of supervised probation and a yearlong suspension of Brandt's driver's license. The maximum penalty for the charge of manslaughter is 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both.
Cayler Ellingson's tragic death has left his family and community devastated. A GoFundMe page was set up in his memory, raising over $50,000. The page describes Cayler as being taken away too soon and expresses the pain no parent should have to endure in losing a child. The sentencing brings some closure to the Ellingson family, but they will forever carry the pain of their loss.
themes: Donald Trump North Dakota