A Butte man won't go to jail

following his sentencing Thursday for hiding evidence while Butte police investigated a hit-and-run involving the death of a Butte teen in October 2007.

Charles A. Johnson, 22, received a two-year deferred sentence for his guilty plea to felony tampering with evidence. District Judge Kurt Krueger said Johnson could avoid prison and have the charge dropped if he stays out of trouble with the law over the next two years.

Johnson admitted in February that he hid empty beer containers when police came to his Steel Street home to question him about a party there. Wade G. Petersen attended that party the night Petersen hit Mariah McCarthy and two of her

14-year-old classmates in October 2007. McCarthy, 14, was killed.

Petersen drank beer at the Steel Street home on Oct. 27, 2007, before driving in his truck and striking the girls. Johnson wasn't involved in the hit-and-run.

Petersen was sentenced on Jan. 21, 2009, to 20 years in prison with

10 years suspended for negligent vehicular homicide. He is serving time at a pre-release center in Great Falls.

During Thursday's hearing, Johnson's lawyer, Frank McGee, asked the judge to go easy on his client because of his lack of a criminal record. McGee said that Johnson made a "dumb mistake" by hiding the empty beer containers. However, McGee added that Johnson thought he was hiding the containers to

protect a friend and not Petersen.

"There was nothing he could do to stop Mr. Petersen from going out and doing what he did," McGee said.

Though his client's actions were "stupid," McGee said they didn't hamper the police's investigation in the Petersen case.

Assistant deputy county attorney Mike Clague had no objection to giving Johnson a deferred sentence, noting that Johnson has had no prior encounters with the law.

Krueger also fined Johnson $500 and gave him two years to pay the fine.

Reporter John Grant Emeigh may be reached via e-mail at john.emeigh@lee.net.

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