- Judge shows justice and mercy in Charlton sentencing
By Myrna Trauntvein
Justice and mercy: Fourth District Court Judge James Brady has juggled between the two and determined that Eric Charlton must serve some jail time.
"I cannot ignore that a life was taken," the judge said Tuesday, January 15.
Eric Wayne Charlton, 27, West Haven, who shot and killed his younger brother in a firearm accident last May while they were on a camping trip at Yuba, was ordered Tuesday to report to jail Friday, January 18, to serve a 90-day term.
In December, Charlton was tentatively sentenced to six months in jail but Judge Brady, at that time, decided to set a review hearing to allow Charlton to present an alternative to jail that would serve as a similar deterrent.
On Tuesday, at the hearing, Brady sentenced Charlton, a former Marine, to 180 days in jail, with 90 days suspended.
In December, Brady sentenced Charlton to spend six months in jail, but allowed the defendant to remain free and return to his courtroom Tuesday with a detailed plan for how he might go about deterring similar crimes in the community.
Charlton is scheduled to speak to students in schools in Weber and Davis counties about the dangers of mixing alcohol and firearms. He will also work with organizations such as Youth Impact and Weber State University's Upward Bound program.
Brady is requiring that Charlton give 90 presentations to various agencies about his experience and cautioning them against drinking and handling a gun.
Defense attorney Susanne Gustin said Charlton plans to take two days a week away from work to fulfill the speaking engagements.
But, Brady said that while he would cut the jail time in half because of Charlton's plans to educate others of the dangers of drinking and handling a fire arm, he still needed to serve some time in jail for the death of his brother.
Jail time was needed because of his reckless behavior, Brady said, and despite pleas from his parents and family members who asked for the man not to be jailed, jail time was set.
"It seems to me if jail time is not imposed, it would send a message," Brady said during the sentencing review.
The judge previously dismissed a felony manslaughter charge. Charlton was sentenced Tuesday for negligent homicide and handling a weapon while intoxicated, both misdemeanors.
Charlton was originally charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and for carrying a weapon while under the influence of alcohol, a class B misdemeanor, in the shooting death of his 17-year-old brother, Cameron.
"Considering the unique circumstances of this case, I believe Judge Brady's sentence was a reasonable blend of mercy and justice," said Jared Eldridge, Juab County Attorney. "At the sentencing, I challenged Eric Charlton to make his life into a tribute to his brother Cameron by doing positive things that would make his brother proud. I have every reason to believe Eric will take me up on this challenge. Now that the sentencing is complete, I am hopeful Eric and his family can heal and start the process of moving forward in a positive direction."
In December, on the misdemeanor weapon charge, Charlton was fined $3,800 and ordered to stay away from alcohol and firearms for two years.
At the time of the shooting, Eric Charlton told a deputy that he had two mixed drinks and maybe a couple of beers the night of the shooting. He submitted to a blood draw four hours later. His blood alcohol level was 0.06 percent.
Judge James Brady spared the veteran of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan a longer jail term after Charlton's family, friends and counselors pleaded for mercy.
More than a dozen people, among them friends and relatives, wrote letters to the Judge asking Brady to reject prosecutors' requests for a stiffer sentence.
Trevor Charlton, father of Eric and Cameron, said that Eric Charlton is the sole provider for his wife and two children.
Charlton has been working for an uncle's landscaping company, and each week has been attending counseling. He has moved his wife and children to his family home in Hooper, nine miles outside Ogden.
"I had to forgive Eric and I did, almost immediately," Trevor Charlton said. "We struggle, but Eric has to live with the burden that, ultimately, this was his fault."
A review hearing has been set for July, at which point Charlton will be required to show his progress on the community service component of his sentence.
"This isn't a crime, it's a tragedy," Trevor Charlton said. "It's hard to live with every day, but it's hardest for Eric."
Julianne, who has been married to Eric Charlton for six years, said jail would keep him from a 3-year-old daughter and a son born in October.
The judge said he didn't feel the sentence was needed to impose a punishment or because Charlton was a danger to others but said he did feel a need to provide a deterrence to handling weapons while intoxicated.
Her client will punish himself for the rest of his life, regardless of the sentence, said Gustin.
"There's nothing that this court could do to him that he's not going to do to himself tenfold," she said.
"I absolutely know that Cameron would forgive him," Trevor Charlton said. "Cameron wouldn't want him to go through all that he has."