GREAT FALLS (AP) — A 16-year-old Malta boy has reached a plea agreement after being charged in Youth Court with negligently causing the death of a hunting companion in 2010, it was reported Thursday.
The boy has agreed to plead "true" to a charge of negligent homicide in the death of Logan Wilson, The Great Falls Tribune (http://gftrib.com/186jWaQ) said.
The Attorney General's Office will recommend that he be placed on probation until July 2017, when he turns 21.
The agreement also calls for the boy to have no access to firearms and to relinquish his hunting and fishing privileges while he is on probation.
A statement by the boy said he was about 50 yards behind Wilson and another boy and was looking through his scope trying to find a whitetail deer they had seen earlier. He said Wilson motioned to him to join the other two boys.
"I started getting up but sort of lost my balance and fell," the boy said in the May 16 statement cited by the newspaper. "As I caught myself I dropped my rifle butt down on the ground. My rifle went off when it hit the ground or when I grabbed it. The bullet struck Logan. This hunting accident was caused by me."
Judge John McKeon set a June 25 hearing to decide whether to accept the plea agreement. A trial scheduled for June 17 was vacated.
Wilson was 16 when he died in October 2010 after being shot in the back of the neck in a field about 24 miles northwest of Malta.
Initially, the defendant, then 14, and another boy on the hunting trip told authorities that Wilson accidentally shot himself, but an autopsy determined he had been shot by the same caliber of gun the defendant was carrying.
The Department of Justice investigated the case for more than a year. In December 2010, the defendant acknowledged the fatal shot had come from his rifle.
In January 2012, the Department of Justice determined there was not enough proof to charge the boy in Wilson's death, but the agency recommended the Phillips County attorney charge the boys in Youth Court with obstruction of justice. The county attorney's office declined.
Wilson's parents, Dawn and Jerry Wilson, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May 2012 naming both boys.
The state Attorney General's Office filed a motion in January 2013 in Youth Court charging the boy with felony negligent homicide. Officials said new information prompted the charge.
The Associated Press withheld the name of the defendant because he is a juvenile.