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Prosecutors in Charlton shooting case request judge to reconsider lesser charges

By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

Monday, in 4th District Court, prosecutors in the case against Eric Charlton, 27, requested that the judge reconsider a decision made last week in which he reduced charges against Charlton.
Meanwhile, a Salt Lake City woman has set up a website trying to garner signatures to a petition to influence Juab County Attorney Jared Eldridge to show compassion.
Eldridge, as county attorney and chief prosecutor in the case, filed a request seeking to have Judge James Brady reconsider his decision to let Charlton stand trial on lessor charges.
"We filed a motion asking Judge Brady to reconsider his decision and to order Charlton to stand trial for manslaughter," said Eldridge. "At the end of the day the needs of both justice and mercy need to be met in this case."
Manslaughter is a second-degree felony.
"We think the case needs a second look," Eldridge said.
Fourth District Court Judge James Brady, in a decision released two days after a preliminary hearing was held in Juab County, ruled that the term "reckless" did not provide the needed definition to bind over Eric Charlton, 27, on the charge of second-degree felony manslaughter in the shooting death of his younger brother, Cameron, 17.
"There is no evidence, or inference from other evidence indicating the defendant knew a cartridge was in the firing chamber when the victim was shot," Brady wrote in his decision.
Whatever the outcome, Charlton still faces two other Misdemeanor charges. One is of Reckless Endangerment and the second is of Carrying a Dangerous Weapon under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs.
Brady, had decided against the manslaughter charge and had made a decision to bind him over on a lesser charge of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor.
In his motion, Eldridge wrote that the evidence shows there was a "substantial and unjustifiable risk" the night Cameron was killed.
The motion further states that Eric Charlton, who spent six years as a Marine, disregarded that risk by pointing a gun with a loaded magazine at his younger brother.
"In deliberately pointing the gun at his brother's head and pulling the trigger, the defendant disregarded his training, his experience and the safety protocol he had demonstrated he knew just shortly before the shooting," Eldridge said.
"The current case is a very serious case with serious implications for both the defendant and the state," Eldridge wrote. "As such, it deserves a very careful and complete consideration."
Kimberly Harding, a Salt Lake City woman, who doesn't even know Charlton, has set up an online petition to show that she, and others support Charlton.
Her petition, titled "Prosecutor of Eric Charlton: Petition for compassion in Eric Charlton case," has netted 314 signatures. Harding is hoping to gather at least 5,000. She hopes it will influence Eldridge to drop charges.
Five months ago, Cameron Charlton, his friend Jonathan Hummel and Eric Charlton were camping with a group at Yuba Lake State Park over Memorial Day weekend.
Early in the morning on May 28, the three were sitting around a campfire talking when Charlton swung a gun toward his younger brother and shot him.
In a police interview played in court, he said he couldn't remember what happened or why he had the handgun out.
Hummell testified on the stand that Eric Charlton drank two glasses of Captain Morgan rum mixed with cola. He said that the younger boys had also been drinking prior to the accident.
Earlier, the three had discussed the handgun that Eric Charlton had in his possession but that he had taken the magazine out of the chamber and cleared the weapon. He later put it back in but thought the chamber was empty.
They had been telling ghost stories, Hummel said at the trial, and became concerned when they heard coyotes in the distance.
Eric Charlton, a former Marine, then grabbed his .45 caliber handgun and said, "You know you're my brother when you can trust me with this."
The elder Charlton made the comment while swinging his arm across his body. At that point, the gun fired, and a bullet passed through Cameron's left temple.
Cameron Charlton died at the scene from a gunshot wound to the head.
Charlton told law enforcement officers at the scene, and since, that it was an accident.
Defense attorney Susanne Gustin has been adamant that the shooting was an accident.