RUPERT • Michael Jared Thompson, 25, will serve five to 15 years in prison for the December 2011 shooting death of Michael K. Blair, 21.
Thompson was found guilty in November by a Minidoka County jury of involuntary manslaughter with a weapons enhancement.
He was charged after holding up a loaded pistol in the crew cab of his truck as a threat to quell an argument as he drove three friends home from a night of drinking at a Paul bar. Blair, who was in the backseat behind Thompson, put his hand over Thompson’s on the gun and placed the barrel in his mouth. The gun discharged, killing him instantly.
Thompson was originally charged with first-degree murder, but that case was dismissed by a magistrate judge during a preliminary hearing.
At Thompson’s sentencing Monday, Feb. 25, Fifth District Judge Michael Crabtree said Thompson’s deliberate actions in pulling out a gun, loading it, cocking it and pointing it toward the backseat warranted a sentence of more than just probation.
Blair’s mother, Laura, and little brother, Daniel, gave victim impact statements during the hearing.
“Mike was entitled to live his life. It was his to live not yours to take,” Laura Blair said.
Blair’s mother presented a DVD of photos of Blair growing up “to show my son was somebody.”
“You killed my son over nothing, for nothing,” she said.
Daniel Blair said he was often encouraged by his brother.
Thompson stood and stoically apologized to Blair’s mother and brother.
“I’d just like to apologize to you guys for the loss of Mike and my contribution to that. I understand that you can’t forgive me and I just want you to know I am truly sorry,” Thompson said.
Thompson told the judge that he takes full responsibility for his actions.
Minidoka County Prosecutor Lance Stevenson argued for a prison term, saying Thompson’s actions were “reckless” and produced the death of Thompson.
“His actions were as close as you can get to murder,” Stevenson said.
Thompson’s attorney, Keith Roark, said Blair contributed to his own death by sliding across the backseat towards the gun and putting it in his mouth. The night’s tragic events couldn’t be reversed by sending Thompson, the father of two children, to prison, Roark said.
Crabtree said he fashioned his sentence based on the factors that Thompson’s actions of loading, cocking and displaying the gun were not accidental, alcohol was a contributing factor and that an argument in a vehicle did not constitute strong provocation.
Crabtree ordered Thompson to pay court costs and costs for pre-sentence tests and granted Blair’s mother and brother a civil penalty award of $5,000.
A restitution hearing will be set at a later date.