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Plea Deal Expected For Brother Teen Accused In Shooting Could Avoid Lengthy Sentence

Lawyers in the fratricide trial of 15-year-old Jason Zimmerman expect to enter a plea agreement today that will keep the Princeton, Idaho, youth from an extensive penitentiary sentence.

While attorneys for neither side would reveal the terms of the agreement, Zimmerman’s lawyer, Michael Henegen, said it is aimed at avoiding both a mandatory 10-year sentence and commitment to the state penitentiary.

“The plea agreement addresses both of those concerns,” he said. The agreement also would give District Court Judge John Bengtson substantial flexibility in issuing a sentence that would protect society and punish Zimmerman while helping rehabilitate him, Henegen said.

Zimmerman is scheduled to stand trial early next month in the second-degree murder of his 11-year-old brother, Justin, last August. According to court records, he shot his brother in the head with a .22-caliber rifle after drinking a fifth of vodka and ordering Justin to pretend he was dialing a telephone. He allegedly shot him after telling him he dialed the wrong number.

As part of the groundwork for a plea agreement, Prosecutor William Thompson on Thursday brought against Zimmerman a second charge of aggravated assault for allegedly pointing the rifle at a 13-year-old friend and pulling the trigger shortly before the other shooting. The gun apparently was not loaded and did not fire.

In one possible scenario for today’s 2 p.m. pre-trial conference, Thompson and Henegen can agree to have Zimmerman plead guilty to the aggravated assault and a reduced charge of manslaughter.

Bengtson then would have the option of placing Zimmerman on extensive probation while placing him in the juvenile services center in St. Anthony.

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