HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Montana man who pleaded no contest to negligent homicide in the October 2013 shooting death of his neighbor has been given a 20-year suspended prison sentence in an agreement with prosecutors.
The sentence says he may not handle firearms or travel within 10 miles of the rural subdivision where prosecutors say he threatened his neighbors and locked gates in an ongoing land access dispute.
Joseph Glenn Campbell, 70, told District Judge DeeAnn Cooney on Wednesday that he believed it was in his and his family’s best interests for him to enter the plea.
A jury was unable to reach a verdict in a three-week deliberate homicide trial that ended in early March and prosecutors had planned to re-try Campbell in October.
Assistant Attorney General Mary Cochenour said the state reached the agreement out of concern that a second hung jury would have meant Campbell wouldn’t be held accountable for 53-year-old Timothy Newman’s death and that he would be free to live in the Falls Creek Subdivision southwest of Augusta where many of his neighbors feared him.
Defense attorney Greg Jackson, who noted the majority of jurors voted in favor of acquitting Campbell, said the agreement brings an end to the anxiety, stress and expense of the case and brings resolution for all involved.
Newman’s wife, Jackie, told Campbell that it wasn’t his right to take “an innocent life from those who knew and loved him,” and that he robbed a grandchild who was born in February from ever knowing her grandfather. She also noted that the sentence means Campbell will no longer be able to “intimidate all the innocent people you have tormented over the years.”
Cochenour read a statement Wednesday from Newman’s daughter, Kristi Newman, in which she wondered how Campbell could receive such minimal punishment when her father got a death sentence.
Cooney said the plea agreement acknowledged that the case was complicated, while still requiring Campbell to accept consequences. Campbell’s sentence includes having no contact with Newman’s family or any of the prosecution witnesses.
During Campbell’s trial, prosecutors presented testimony that tensions ran high in the subdivision over access to nearby U.S. Forest Service land after Campbell purchased 300 acres from a man who had allowed people to travel through his property for decades. Campbell put up fences and gates, lawsuits were filed and Newman had been cutting off locks. One witness testified that Campbell had threatened Newman two days before the shooting.
On Oct. 18, 2013, Campbell testified that Newman followed him and his wife up a trail and was acting erratically. Campbell said he sent his wife to call for help and while she was gone Newman pointed a gun at him, and he shot Newman in self-defense, hitting his hand. Campbell testified that Newman was on the ground, facing away from him and that he could not see a gun when he shot Newman in the back as he tried to get up.
Prosecutors argued it was Campbell’s first shot that hit Newman in the back as he tried to run away from a confrontation with Campbell.
Campbell settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Newman’s wife last month. The terms were not disclosed.
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