Brother of accidental shooting victim sentenced to probation

A Juneau man who accidentally shot his brother last December has been sentenced to one year on probation.

During a short hearing Thursday morning, 32-year old Seth Bingham changed his plea to fourth degree misconduct involving weapons, a misdemeanor, for allegedly firing recklessly. A charge of second degree assault, a felony, was dropped as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

Seth’s 27-year old brother Joe was driving away from the Hank Harmon Rifle Range when Seth, in the truck’s passenger seat, decided to unload and take apart a fairly new Springfield XD pistol. The gun discharged with the slug striking Joe in the lower right leg. It was later amputated.

Seth Bingham told District Court Judge Thomas Nave that he was at his mercy. Nave said he knew that Seth didn’t shoot Joe on purpose, but it was negligent.

Nave, who said that he wasn’t prepared for a change of plea and sentencing (Thursday’s hearing was originally scheduled as a simple status hearing), briefly reflected on his personal experiences of apparent close calls at the rifle range or out hunting.

As part of the agreement, Seth Bingham was sentenced to 180 days in jail with all 180 days suspended. He will not have to serve any time in jail unless he violates any other laws before his probation ends out in a year. He can possess firearms only after he’s off probation and after he completes a week-long gun safety course. An exception includes work purposes. He said in court that he keeps a firearm in his aircraft.

Nave suggested that it would be mutually beneficial for Bingham to talk about his experiences with middle schoolers currently involved with gun safety and hunter education courses. Bingham said in court that it’s still a struggle to talk about the incident.