A Ladysmith man was sentenced Jan. 5 in Price County Circuit Court to 12 months in the county jail after pleading guilty to negligently operating a vehicle that resulted in the death of another person.

On Sept. 15 in a plea hearing Ethan J.K. Russell, 18, entered guilty pleas to one felony count of knowingly operate without a valid license causing death and one count of homicide by negligent operation of vehicle. 

Russell appeared telephonically in Price County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Sept. 15 for a plea hearing where his original charges were amended.

Russell was originally charged with one felony count of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and one felony count of homicide by vehicle with the use of controlled substance. Those charges carried a maximum sentence of $200,000 in fines or 50 years incarceration or both. 

Russell returned to Price County Circuit Court Jan. 5 for a sentencing hearing.

To the count of knowingly operating without a valid license causing death, Russell was sentenced to three years probation and a withheld sentence. To the count of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, Russell was sentenced to four years probation and 12 months in jail. He was given 140 days jail credit.

He is required to pay $268 in court costs and must provide and pay for a sample of his DNA. Russell must also maintain full time employment and obtain his high school diploma or an equivalent within 12 months.

While on probation, he must maintain absolute sobriety and participate and successfully complete any assessment, treatment or counseling recommended as directed by his supervising agent. He cannot possess or consume any controlled substances unless prescribed to him by a doctor.

Russell was also ordered to complete a psychological evaluation and follow through with any treatment or medication recommendations. If available, Russell must complete a victim impact group and obtain a valid driver’s license within 18 months.

According to the criminal complaint, at 6:20 p.m. on Aug. 2, 2019 a Price County deputy responded to a one-vehicle accident on Wis. 70 near North Fork Road in the township of Flambeau.

Two Department of Natural Resources wardens and two EMS personnel were already on scene attending to Oryan E. Jenness when the deputy arrived. Jenness was lying in the ditch with severe, obvious injuries and was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Russell admitted to being the driver of the vehicle and had been seen by witnesses speaking with and apologizing to Jenness.

At the scene Russell was seen drinking from a brown can that he threw into the ditch. Law enforcement recovered the can and discovered it was an energy drink mixed with alcohol. Russell’s speech was slurred and a smell of intoxicants could be detected on Russell, according to the criminal complaint.

A witness at the scene reported she had been driving on Wis. 70 when Russell passed her vehicle at a high rate of speed. The witness reported she had seen Jenness’ feet hanging outside of the vehicle when Russell passed her vehicle.

The vehicle crashed and rolled, ejecting Jenness, when Russell lost control of the vehicle on a curve, according to the criminal complaint.

Russell was transported to a local hospital were a blood draw was administered. Results from the blood draw taken approximately two hours after the crash show that at the time of the crash Russell had cannabis in his system and his blood alcohol content was .079.

Following the sentencing hearing, Russell was to report to jail.

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