Teen plea-bargains to manslaughter in case watched by BLM
OGDEN — Brandon Parker, whose case drew scrutiny from Black Lives Matter of Utah, has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the shooting death of a 16-year-old friend.
In a plea bargain filed in 2nd District Court on Wednesday, Parker pleaded to the second-degree felony charge, which could result in a prison term of one to 15 years in prison.
Parker was a juvenile when Caden Ferguson died of a single gunshot to the forehead on the morning of March 14, 2020, at Parker’s parents’ home. Police testimony at a preliminary hearing said Parker had been drinking brandy and consuming marijuana dabs. The shooting happened at about 5 a.m.
The Weber County Attorney’s Office charged Parker as an adult with first-degree felony murder; second-degree felony charges of theft by receiving a stolen firearm and obstructing justice; and a third-degree felony charge of use of a firearm by a restricted person. The latter three charges were dropped in this week’s plea bargain.
Parker was held in juvenile detention for nearly a year, with bail set at $250,000. When he turned 18 and was set to be transferred to the Weber County Jail, Black Lives Matter of Utah raised $25,000 cash bail to secure his release pending trial.
Parker, his family and Black Lives Matter contended the shooting was accidental and he should not have been charged with murder or tried in adult court.
Lex Scott, who at the time was head of Black Lives Matter of Utah, said the murder charge was discriminatory. Parker is Black, and she said a white defendant would have been charged with a lesser offense. Weber County Attorney Christopher Allred said the murder charge fit the case well and he did not even know Parker was Black until objections to the charge were raised.
Judge Cristina Ortega set sentencing for Nov. 9. She ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Parker will remain free on bail until then.
The plea bargain followed months of negotiations between the county attorney’s office and public defender Randall Marshall.