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Willson pleads guilty to third degree manslaughter

Sun Advocate reporter

Paul Willson has pleaded guilty to the Aug. 8, 2009 manslaughter of Johnathan Tobey, age 20.

The plea took place on on Jan. 13 in district court. Although the case was originally prosecuted under a second degree felony, the guilty plea dropped it down to a third degree charge with sentencing set for Mar. 3 at 1:30 p.m.

"It was an unfortunate situation, because he (Mr. Willson) was trying to assist some girls. He held (Tobey down) by the throat to subdue him and used too much force. It's really sad all around," said prosecuting attorney Gene Strate.

Reportedly, a group of five campers from Salt Lake came to the Price Recreation Area to celebrate a birthday on the day of Toby's death. During the celebration, an argument reportedly erupted concerning a female-male relationship between unidentified members of the group. After the argument became heated, one male in the group apparently left the camp and started to walk toward Soldier's Summit, where the Carbon County Sheriff's Department later located him.

The argument reportedly continued and three members of the group decided to leave the area, but Tobey refused to get into the vehicle. To control Tobey, Willson purportedly got the man down onto the ground and put a hold on the subject, which resulted in Tobey's death.

Willson now faces a maximum of five years in state prison, 36 months probation, a possible year in the Carbon County jail and no more than a $5,000 fine.

The charges will be considered after the court has time to review a department of corrections investigation report which Mr. Willson will be cooperating with over the next couple of months. The report will be conducted in part by both the Carbon County and Salt Lake corrections departments, because Mr. Willson is currently under house arrest at his home in the Salt Lake area.

"In terms of sentencing we'll just have to see what the department of corrections recommends," said Mr. Strate.

During the plea, Judge George Harmond informed Mr. Willson that by making the guilty plea he was waiving several rights including a trial setting which was acknowledged in his signed defendant's statement.

Defense attorney David Allred requested that the court remove Mr. Willson's house arrest order for convenience sake as well as release his bond payment. However the prosecution recommended that the house arrest not be removed because of the short time until sentencing, but did agree to release the bond money.

"Given the seriousness of the situation I would leave the ( house arrest) order on," said Judge Harmond.

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