Charles Edward Varney, 19, received a withheld judgment and was placed on probation for three years on a charge of felony injury to a child stemming from a Sept. 7, 2018, accident.
Kayden Gunn, 14, of Challis fell from sideboard of Varney’s truck that day and was crushed under a trailer.
The judge’s decision means if Varney is successful on probation, his guilty plea can be set aside and his case dismissed.
“It was a hard day for our family,” Terry Gunn, the victim’s father, told Judge Stevan Thompson at the Feb. 20 sentencing hearing. “I have no doubt Charlie (Varney) didn’t mean for this to happen. He’s not a bad kid. I don’t see any reason for him to go to jail. It could have been a lot worse. I don’t hold grudges. He’s a good kid. It just happened.”
Varney had no intent to hurt anyone, defense attorney Jeffrey Kunz said.
“I wasn’t there and am unsure of the road conditions, but it’s never a good idea to ride on the sideboards,” Kunz said.
Varney is young, made a poor decision and pleaded guilty, Kunz pointed out. His client has no criminal record, does not abuse alcohol or drugs, needs no treatment, is highly likely to succeed on probation and is a good candidate for a withheld judgment, Kunz said.
“He’s a good person,” Kunz said of Varney, adding that that’s probably why the victim’s father stood up for him.
Varney doesn’t need to be in prison, Custer County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Oleson said. Oleson described Varney’s presentence investigation as the best he’d seen.
As part of a plea agreement, Oleson agreed to dismiss a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving against Varney and not to recommend any up-front prison time.
“I’m confident you’ll be successful on probation,” Thompson told Varney. But if he’s not, the court can revoke the withheld judgment and impose a sentence. “I’m optimistic I won’t have to do that,” Thompson said.
The state has 120 days to file for restitution of the approximate $500,000 in medical bills resulting from Gunn’s injuries, the judge said.
Thompson fined Varney $1,000, ordered him to pay court costs and pay $500 in reimbursement to Custer County for his public defender.