A Weber County man who accidentally shot and killed his younger brother during a May camping trip will plead guilty to misdemeanor charges, his defense attorney said Wednesday.
When Eric Charlton, 27, appears in court Oct. 23, he will plead guilty to a class A misdemeanor count of negligent homicide and a class B misdemeanor count of carrying a weapon while under the influence of alcohol, said defense attorney Susanne Gustin.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors will dismiss one misdemeanor charge and abandon their fight to have Charlton face a felony and potential prison time for the death of 17-year-old Cameron Charlton.
"Both sides are happy with the resolution," Gustin said. The family is "going to be able to put this behind them now.…I don't think the family could have taken any more of this."
Eric Charlton sobbed through most of an eight-hour preliminary hearing last month in 4th District Court, as a judge heard evidence of the May 28 shooting.
At that hearing, Jonathan Hummell, an eyewitness to the shooting, said Eric Charlton had consumed two glasses of Captain Morgan rum mixed with cola, and the younger boys had also been drinking that night at Yuba Lake.
The group had been telling ghost stories and became spooked when they heard coyotes in the distance. Eric Charlton, a former Marine, grabbed his .45 caliber handgun.
Hummell testified that Charlton told his younger brother, "You know you're my brother when you can trust me with this," while swinging his arm across his body. The gun fired, and a bullet passed through Cameron's left temple.
Charlton had told law enforcement that he initially removed the magazine from the gun, and even pulled the slide back to show the teens that the weapon was empty earlier in the evening, court documents state. He showed the two teens different firearm techniques before replacing the magazine. He told police, however, that he did not remember charging the gun's chamber with a live round.
Gustin said it was possible that if the magazine was slammed into the gun with too much force, it could load a bullet into the chamber without the operator's knowledge.
Justin Bechaver, with the state's crime lab, testified that about 30 percent of the time he forcefully loaded a magazine on Charlton's 1911 Springfield, a bullet was pushed into the chamber.
Prosecutors had originally charged Eric Charlton with a second-degree felony. But Judge James Brady ruled that prosecutors had not met the burden to prove that Charlton acted recklessly when he accidentally fired the shot that killed his brother. He reduced the count to a class A misdemeanor. Prosecutors later filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider his ruling.