An 18-year-old driver who struck a Montana Highway Patrol car at the scene of a previous fatal crash on Harrison Avenue in December pleaded guilty to felony criminal endangerment Tuesday and received a six-year deferred sentence.
Mikel Solomon also admitted being drunk at the time and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI, and as part of a plea agreement and sentence, he must pay $18,164 for the wrecked patrol car.
Prosecutors dropped four other charges, including two additional felony counts of criminal endangerment. Solomon previously pleaded not guilty to all six charges.
District Judge Brad Newman accepted a plea deal and its recommendations for the deferred sentence, saying Solomon was young and had no prior criminal record.
But imposed numerous probation conditions and said if they were violated, he could send Solomon to prison for up to 10 years.
“So you’ve got 10 years hanging over your head,” Newman told him.
The Highway Patrol car was blocking lanes near the Copper King Hotel after a pickup truck heading south on Harrison hit a car driven by 32-year-old Cole Davis around 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 16. Davis died at the scene. His wife and the driver of the pickup were taken to the hospital.
The driver of the pickup was not cited at the scene, but the county attorney’s office continued to investigate the crash and it’s still possible that charges could be filed.
While emergency personnel were on the scene of that crash, Solomon — driving a Suburban — smashed into the patrol car, prosecutors say. A police officer had to run to avoid being hit.
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Two other males, both age 16, were in the Suburban and were injured in the crash. A blood test showed Solomon’s blood-alcohol level at three times the legal limit, according to the charging document.
Mike Clague, the lead prosecutor in the case, said it was only through “the grace of God” that Solomon didn’t hurt anyone. But he said the deferred sentence and probation terms were appropriate.
Before sentencing, Solomon told the court that his mother had committed suicide and “that was the main reason behind the incidents.”
“I just wanted to make that clear,” he said.
After the hearing, a man who said he was Solomon’s father said his son had never been in trouble before.
“Thank you for your kindness,” he told Newman.
The judge said state law and prosecutors had made the deferred sentence possible, but it was up to Solomon to determine how things work out from here.
“I see some successes, I see some failures,” Newman said.