2 students take plea deals 2 weeks before trial

Andy Steinke

.University students Brandon Overlie and Michael McCullough have accepted plea deals from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office two weeks before their trials regarding the death of University first-year student Kyle Sharbonno last April were set to begin.

Overlie pled guilty Friday to the gross misdemeanor charge of selling alcohol to a minor. McCullough pled guilty to the same charge Monday morning in Judge Mark Wernick’s courtroom.

Both men were initially charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor, resulting in a death, which is a felony-level offense, and could have faced up to five years in prison and fines, if they had gone to trial and were found guilty.

The charges were brought against the men after Sharbonno became intoxicated during a party at Overlie and McCullough’s house and later fell to his death from the third floor of the Oak Street Ramp on April 1, 2007.

Chris Ritts, Overlie’s defense attorney, said he was pleased with the agreement that was reached.

“The state pulled their heads out of their asses and finally agreed to dismiss the outrageous charge initially leveled against Overlie,” he said. “I said all along that this is outrageous what you charged him with. What he did was he provided alcohol to a minor, that was all.”

Overlie had bought the kegs of beer for McCullough’s party that night, but wasn’t at the party himself.

McCullough was only 20 at the time of the incident, so he had Overlie buy the beer for the party, according to the criminal complaint.

Several phone calls and messages for comment made to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office were not returned to the Daily.

Ritts said there is a recommended six-month sentence for the gross misdemeanor offense Overlie and McCullough pled to, but said the judge doesn’t have to follow that recommendation.

McCullough and Overlie are expected to be sentenced June 25 in Wernick’s courtroom, Wernick’s law clerk Michael Everson said.

Neither McCullough nor Overlie have been expelled from school for violating the Student Conduct Code.

Ritts said Overlie took his University disciplinary proceeding to the full panel for a hearing.

The panel decided Friday to have him complete 40 hours of community service.

“In many respects, the University disciplinary proceeding was almost as important to Overlie,” Ritts said. “He didn’t want to get kicked out of school.”

McCullough also went through a University panel hearing, Ritts said, but would not comment on the outcome. McCullough’s attorney was not available for comment.