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Thursday, June 15, 2006
Brawley receives deferred sentence
by LUELLA N. BRIEN - Ravalli Republic

Chance Brawley was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in the Ravalli County Detention Center for the negligent homicide of Bo Storms, avoiding a 20-year Montana State Prison commitment primarily because of the recommendation of the Storms family.

Brawley also received a six-year deferred sentence, was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine to the Ravalli County DUI Task Force and $2,507 in restitution to the victim's family. He was also ordered to serve 100 hours or more in community service, most likely in the form of public speaking engagements, and to repay public defender fees.

Brawley, a three-time high school state wrestling champion, told the court that he was ready to accept the sentence that the judge gave him.

“I want to say how sorry I am to Bo Storms' family and to the family of every one else who was injured,” Brawley said. “Everyday I think about the wreck, and every day I wish I could go back and change it.”

District Court Judge James Haynes told Brawley that while he will still have his freedom and liberty and ability to go on with his life, he has little room for mistakes.

“Each one of us stumbles along the way, but my caution is this: In a deferred sentence if you stumble you could be facing 20 years,” Haynes said. “You face 20 years if you don't toe the line, I'm confident that you can, but you need to know the downside of the sentence you asked for.”

“You have the potential to be a good teacher and a good coach.” Haynes continued. “You have the potential to be a good role model. If you get diverted you won't find me very tolerant of excuses.”

Deputy County Attorney William Fulbright argued that a Montana State Prison or a Montana Department of Corrections commitment would be unacceptable routes for Brawley's sentence because of his age, lack of criminal history and recommendations of the victim's

family. The state did, however, argue for 30 days in county jail. “In a case where a young man lost his life I don't think it's appropriate to just walk out of the court room,” Fulbright said.

In addition to county jail time the state argued for a six-year deferred sentence or 10 to 15 years suspended.

“I realize the defense is looking for a deferred sentence, but it's my job to keep Bo Storms in mind,” he said. “In six years Bo Storms won't get another chance.”

Sasha Brownlee, one of Brawley's defense attorneys, argued simply for the six-year deferment.

“Thirty days in jail is not appropriate considering the family of Bo Storms doesn't want to see these young men in jail,” she said.

Christopher Baecht, a

codefendant in this case, will be sentenced on July 20.

Michael Montgomery, part of Brawley's defense team, said Brawley will always be affected by the wreck that caused the death of Storms.

“From what we know about Chance, at the end of six years, this is not going to end for him,” he said. “He will suffer for the rest of his life for his actions.”

Brawley will most likely continue to speak at area schools and in local substance-abuse classes. Brawley approached Daniel Sybrant, superintendent of Corvallis schools, to see if he could speak to students before the end of the school year.

“He called me to do some work in the schools and I told him about the Your Choice Program,” Sybrant said. “I didn't think he'd take the chance, because it's scary to speak in front of your peers.”

Sybrant testified at the sentencing that Brawley would be a good candidate for a deferred sentence, because he does want to be a teacher and coach and with a felony on his record that wouldn't be possible.

“I'm here today because I believe in Chance Brawley - I believe he can rebound from this,” Sybrant said.

Brawley's former wrestling coach and teacher, Jeff Nagel, testified that Brawley could use this experience to become a better coach and teacher.

“Tragedies can lead to experiences that can change a person positively,” Nagel said.