MAHNOMEN -- The admitted accomplice of the man accused of shooting Mahnomen County Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Dewey was sentenced to 24 months in prison Wednesday for his role in the incident.
Daniel Kurt Vernier, 27, pleaded guilty in July to the charge of failure to render assistance to the wounded deputy. Vernier was also sentenced to 30 months in prison on an unrelated domestic violence charge that had been suspended.
He could be out of prison in less than 18 months because of time served and due to the fact that only two-thirds of the sentence is served in prison, while the other third is spent in supervised release if Vernier maintains good behavior.
Vernier will also have to testify in the trial of the accused shooter, Thomas Fairbanks, and pay a portion of restitution that will be due as a result of Dewey's injuries.
His testimony is needed because aggravating factors need to be proved to lengthen Fairbanks' prison time if he is found guilty.
"It's going to be essential because there were other shootings that were happening besides Chris," said Mahnomen County Attorney Julie Bruggeman on Vernier's testimony. "There were shootings in the house aimed at Vernier and at law enforcement, which will aggravate the sentence a little bit.
"This is someone who is dangerous and that we don't want out on the streets," Bruggeman said of Fairbanks.
Dewey was shot early in the morning on Feb. 18 in Mahnomen. He is undergoing extensive rehabilitation therapy at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo.
Before Ninth District Judge Michael Kraker pronounced sentence, he gave victims of the crime an opportunity to address the court and Vernier.
Emily Dewey, in making her first visit back to Mahnomen since her husband was transferred to Colorado for medical treatment, said that the shooting turned her and Chris' life upside down.
"If I think about every memory between Chris and I, it's tarnished because we may never do those activities (that they loved) again," she said.
She said that what she's been through watching Chris in a helpless state for the past seven months has been emotional warfare.
Emily Dewey implored Vernier to do something with his life.
"You've spent your life as a criminal, do something with it," she said.
Unfortunately, she said she might never know why her husband was shot.
"Only you, Fairbanks and God knows what went on that day," she said to Vernier.
Chris Dewey's stepmother, Jennifer Dewey, said her stepson lost the chance to say goodbye to his grandfather, who died recently.
"You helped by not acting," she said.
Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier showed anger in his remarks.
"I thought I was going to go to a funeral," he said of seeing Dewey for the first time in the hospital lying on a table. "That pissed me off. There was no reason for that."
He said that Dewey was just doing his job that morning when tracking who drove a car into a ditch in town.
"For no reason that I can see, you and you're friend shot him," Krier said.
For such a small sheriff's department, the shooting is a burden to the public because Dewey is needed and his injuries left the department shorthanded, Krier said.
"All of us and the department are one big family," he said.
Vernier's girlfriend, Rachel Fairbanks, who is also the sister of the accused shooter said her family has been victims as well.
She is the mother of Vernier's three children, including twins who were born a few months after the shooting.
"You've been in our thoughts and prayers," Rachel Fairbanks said of the Dewey's.
But she said that because of the shooting, her family has suffered repercussions.
"I've been ostracized as well," she said.
After the sentencing hearing, Rachel Fairbanks said that Vernier has another chance at turning his life around from a life of crime.
"Danny has been given another opportunity at life," she said.
Vernier didn't make a statement.
Bruggeman said that despite pleading guilty, she feels that Vernier hasn't accepted responsibility.
"Do I think he's taken responsibility for his actions yet? In my opinion I don't think so," Bruggeman said.
Emily Dewey said she would have liked for Vernier to address her.
"Say anything and apologize," she said. "You can't change it."
She said she noticed Vernier was listening and nodded while she spoke.
Vernier will be transported to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud where it will be determined what prison he'll eventually serve the bulk of his sentence.
Fairbanks faces an omnibus hearing in November, with a tentative trial date in late January or February.
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