Man who ran down, kill teen boy sentenced to ONLY five years - the boy was a young conservative

CARRINGTON, ND – On Friday, September 8th, the man who took it upon himself to run down and kill a teenage boy, whom he deemed a “Republican extremist,” was sentenced to only five years in prison.

Shannon Brandt, 41, was initially accused of murder, but was able to have those charges reduced. Instead, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

In September of 2022, Brandt ran down and killed 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson. He hit him with his SUV after a street dance in the small town of McHenry. The teenage boy’s death and alleged political motivations of the incident led many people, including Donald Trump, to address the case.

Brandt’s intentions seemed to be fueled by Ellingson’s affiliation with a local Republican group. However, the North Dakota State Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the death was “accidental.”

According to KVRR, Brandt will get credit for time-served under house arrest, which will reduce his prison sentence by nearly a year. He will then have to serve a period of supervised release.

State’s Attorney Kara Brinster requested five years incarceration with credit for time served and three years of supervised release.

She alleged that Brandt’s statements to investigators did not align with the evidence in the case and that he did not take sufficient accountability for Ellingson’s death. Brandt’s defense attorney, Mark Friese claims otherwise.

He alleges that Brandt’s story has been consistent and that he was the one to call 911 when he realized what he had done. He asked the judge to impose a sentence of 18 months with credit for nearly the one year he has already spent under house arrest.

A number of Ellingson’s family members addressed the court, including three of his aunts and his father, Cole. The teenage boy’s mother, Sheri, asked the judge not to follow the plea agreement and to give Brandt the maximum sentence for manslaughter, which would have been 10 years. 

“Shannon," the mother said, "you took a piece of our family that’s not replaceable. When you chose to take Cayler’s life and happiness you took ours too. You have caused our family endless pain, heartache, sleep-less nights. Our days, months and years will never be the same because of your selfishness.”

A psychological exam of Brandt and report by experts was central to both the defense and prosecution’s arguments as well as the judge’s decision. The judge spent a significant portion of his sentencing addressing Brandt’s autism diagnosis.

The judge faulted Brandt for consuming alcohol, which he said Brandt knew would amplify his reactions. The judge said, “You didn’t intentionally run him over. I acknowledge that. I understand what the experts in this case are saying about how your mind works. And you didn’t intentionally kill Cayler. But he did die. And that’s a result of your alcohol consumption. You recklessly pushed Cayler to the ground with your SUV, you recklessly ran him over, and you recklessly killed him.”

Prior to his sentencing, Brandt addressed the courtroom, claiming he learned a lot of hard lessons. 

“I’m here to take responsibility for the role I played in this tragedy," Brandt 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. I am truly devastated by the impact this has had on the entire community.”

Brandt killed a teenage boy and was sentenced to just five years in prison. Yet, some individuals who allegedly took part in the January 6th protest at the Capitol are getting prison sentences upward of 20 years.

The inequality of justice has not gone unnoticed. One person wrote on X, “Shannon Brandt was just sentenced to ONLY 5 years for murdering Cayler Ellingson for being Republican. Meanwhile J6 protestors are getting 17 and 22 year sentences. The two-tiered system of justice is getting worse.”

Another person wrote:

“Remember Cayler Ellingson? The 18-year-old who was targeted for his conservative views and hit with a car? Shannon Brandt, the driver of the car, was just sentenced to 5 years in prison. But if you walked around the capitol for 20 mins? DECADES in prison. Truly demonic & evil.”
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