BRIGHAM CITY — A Tremonton man who claimed self defense in the shooting death of his downstairs tenant is appealing his conviction to the Utah Supreme Court.
Attorneys for Brandon K. Thompson, 31, argued their client was coerced into pleading guilty to killing Michael Hogenson on April 16, 2018. They lost an effort to change his plea before sentencing.
First District Judge Brandon Maynard, who on June 17 rejected the change-of-plea request, sentenced Thompson on June 20 to 15 years to life in prison on a charge of first-degree felony murder.
Thompson also received a pair of 1-to-15 year sentences on related charges of possession of a firearm by a restricted person and obstruction of justice. The three sentences will run concurrently, and Maynard gave Thompson credit for 425 days served in the Box Elder County Jail while awaiting trial.
In a probable cause statement, Tremonton police said Thompson shot Hogenson, 33, multiple times with a handgun. Officers said Thompson then hid or destroyed various pieces of evidence and waited two hours before reporting the shooting to authorities.
At sentencing, family members of Hogenson, including his father, urged heavy punishment for Thompson.
In pretrial proceedings, one of Thompson’s earlier defense teams filed a motion arguing that their client was frightened by Hogenson, who was bigger than Thompson and had mixed martial arts experience.
Thompson and his girlfriend lived on the main floor of a home owned by Thompson. Hogenson was the basement apartment tenant, according to court records.
Defense attorney Shannon Demler said in a pretrial notice that Hogenson was behind on the rent and in danger of eviction. The dispute between the men had been going on for several days and Hogenson was “becoming more hostile and upset.”
Demler said Thompson feared Hogenson was coming up the apartment stairs to cause him “bodily injury or death.”
Thompson fired two warning shots into a wall but Hogenson continued up the stairs and threatened to kill him, Demler’s notice alleged. Then Thompson fired the deadly shots.
But before the case reached trial, Demler and Box Elder County prosecutors reached a plea bargain. Thompson agreed to plead guilty to all charges.
However, Thompson soon dropped Demler and hired Logan attorney Ryan Holdaway to represent him.
Holdaway filed a plea withdrawal motion, arguing that prosecutors and Demler had pressured Thompson to take the deal. Holdaway argued Thompson was promised that his girlfriend, Kennedy Stuart, would not be prosecuted for alleged tampering with evidence if he pleaded guilty.
After a hearing, Maynard ruled all the evidence showed Thompson willingly admitted to the charges in his guilty plea, that he was represented adequately by Demler and that prosecutors did not pressure him to plea guilty.
“Any perceived notions that defendant was required to plea to avoid Ms. Stuart being prosecuted were solely a product of defendant’s own thoughts and misperception,” Maynard’s ruling said.
Stuart, who was not charged in the case, and more than a dozen of Thompson’s relatives and friends wrote letters to Maynard before sentencing.
“Brandon is a beautiful and courageous person who cares about his family and found himself in a tragic situation,” Stuart said in a handwritten letter to the judge.
Thompson initially was charged with aggravated murder, but prosecutors later served notice they did not intend to seek the death penalty.
The Utah Supreme Court said Monday it had received Holdaway’s notice of appeal. The high court assigned the case to the Utah Court of Appeals.