One of seven people involved in the murder of a Billings man in front of his home in Midtown in 2020 was sentenced to prison Monday.
James Posey Fisher, 36, was sentenced in Yellowstone County District Court to 20 years with five suspended. Although he did not fire the shot that killed Brett Ness, he admitted to pointing a gun at the 24-year-old while a second armed man opened fire.
Officers with the Billings Police Department responded to a shooting on Florine Lane, near Central Park, in April 2020. They found Ness laying in his driveway with a gunshot wound to his head. He was taken to a Billings hospital, where he later died. He was a father to a 4-year-old girl, and his death was the second in a record-setting year of homicides in Billings.
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Investigators reviewed surveillance footage showing two vehicles pulling up to Ness’ driveway the day he was shot. Five men emerged, walked out of frame and ran back to the vehicles shortly after. Fisher was among those five men.
Alexander Garrett Laforge III approached Ness at his home the day prior to the shooting, according to court documents, demanding money. Laforge left saying Ness had better move, because he was coming back.
Laforge returned the next day, with Fisher and five others in the two vehicles. The vehicles were driven by two women, both of whom later pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Three men joined Laforge and Fisher, who had firearms, in getting out and approaching Ness’ home. When Ness came outside, Laforge and Fisher pointed their guns at him. Laforge fired a single round which struck and eventually killed Ness, court documents said.
Yellowstone County District Judge Donald L. Harris sentenced Laforge, a parolee with six prior felony convictions, to 110 years in prison in May of this year. He will not be eligible for parole for the first 50 years. He was also ordered to pay nearly $85,000 in restitution to Ness’ family and the state’s Crime Victim Compensation program.
Fisher, originally from Lame Deer, reached an agreement with Yellowstone County prosecutors in March 2021 in which he pleaded guilty to one count of assault with a weapon. Per his plea agreement, prosecutors recommended Fisher be sentenced to 20 years in prison, with 10 suspended.
At his sentencing Monday, Judge Harris sentenced Fisher to 20 years, but with only five suspended. He will serve that sentence consecutive to the five years he received in U.S. District Court earlier this month for manslaughter. A federal judge sentenced Fisher to 60 months, plus three years of supervised released, after he admitted to stabbing his brother, Dane Fisher, to death during an argument at a gas station in Crow Agency.
A third man charged in connection to the death of Ness, Brian Pretty Weasel, is set to appear for trial in November. Prosecutors allege he gave Laforge the gun used to kill Ness. He is facing one count of assault with a weapon by accountability.