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Vernier pleads guilty in connection with shooting of Mahnomen County deputy

Daniel Kurt Vernier is led out of the Mahnomen County Courtroom in February after his first court appearance in the shooting of Mahnomen County deputy Christopher Dewey. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

MAHNOMEN - The man accused of being an accomplice in the February shooting of Mahnomen County sheriff's deputy Christopher Dewey reached a plea deal for his role in the incident.

Daniel Kurt Vernier, 27, pleaded guilty to the charge of failure to render assistance during a hearing Wednesday afternoon in the Ninth District Court of Minnesota, Mahnomen.

An omnibus hearing was scheduled to take place Wednesday, but Mahnomen County Attorney Julie Bruggeman came to an agreement with Public Defender Brian Hardwick, who represented Vernier.

According to the plea agreement, Vernier's other 16 charges in relation to the case have been dropped, his maximum prison sentence will be 24 months and he agreed to be available for testimony when Thomas Fairbanks, 33, goes to trial for 22 charges relating to the shooting of Dewey.

Vernier's sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 9 a.m.

During Wednesday's hearing, Vernier testified about the events of Feb. 18, 2009, saying that he only heard shots fired behind him and didn't see whether it was Fairbanks or Dewey that was shot.

It wasn't until he fled the scene and saw Fairbanks that he deduced that it was Dewey who'd been shot.

Vernier said that he did not give assistance to Dewey when he heard the initial shots.

He said that Fairbanks wanted to steal Dewey's squad car to escape from the shooting scene, but Vernier said he refused to go along. Instead, Vernier said he went to a trailer house at 402 W. Washington Ave. in Mahnomen, where Fairbanks caught up with him.

After negotiations with law enforcement, Vernier left the trailer home where he was holed up with Fairbanks. Vernier also said that when he surrendered to authorities, he took the gun that Fairbanks allegedly used to shoot Dewey

Vernier also faces 30 months in prison for an earlier domestic violence charge, to be served concurrently with the sentence he pleaded guilty to, with credit for time served since he was taken into custody.

One point of contention arose during Wednesday's hearing concerning restitution. Vernier said that since he didn't shoot Dewey, he shouldn't be responsible for full restitution.

The prosecution and defense will present their arguments in front of Judge Michael Kraker at a later date to determine how much, if any, restitution Vernier is liable for.