Steven Brydie, the accused shooter in the killing of Michael Whitis at the Shoofly Ruins in July, decided to reject the Gila County attorney’s plea offer on Nov. 29.
Instead, he will go to trial late in 2019.
The plea agreement would have required Brydie to accept two counts, one for manslaughter and the other for aggravated assault. The two counts would have put Brydie in prison for up to 18.5 years.
It took more than an hour of discussions between the defense, prosecution, Brydie and Judge Gary Scales to come to the realization that Brydie would not take the plea.
“The courts conducted some negotiation between the state and the defense and Mr. Brydie — and they were fruitless and it didn’t result in any kind of a decision or agreement,” said Scales.
Brydie’s choice to go to trial could result in a 75-year prison sentence.
At a hearing on Nov. 19, Chief Deputy County Attorney Brad Soos explained that because Brydie committed the shooting while still on probation for another case, he faces enhanced sentences.
“However, the defendant has two prior convictions,” said Soos at the earlier hearing. “So if he were convicted of counts 2 and 3 at trial, the state would elect to have him sentenced as a category three repetitive offender.”
Soos also told Brydie at the Nov. 19 hearing, the jury could find him guilty of second-degree murder instead of manslaughter.
The difference between the two — second-degree murder is intentional, but without forethought or hatred.
Manslaughter is also called a crime of passion — a killing done out of a person’s mentally or emotionally disturbed moment.
A lesser version of manslaughter is called involuntary manslaughter. Legal authorities define the crime as a killing from a neglectful act.
The different definitions of murder have corresponding sentence differences depending on many factors.
The court set the original date for the trial in June, but due to prior commitments from both defense attorney Michael Bernays and the prosecution team of Brad Soos and Jessica Richardson, the trial could be delayed until September.
This caused relatives of Whitis to express dismay at the thought of waiting almost a year for the trial.
Scales set the trial date hearing for 2:30 p.m., Dec. 17, in Judge Tim Wright’s Payson courtroom.
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