James Daniel Nelson pleaded guilty this morning to negligent homicide at his first court appearance following the accidental shooting death of his best friend.
In an agreement worked out with state prosecutors before the hearing, Nelson, 24, admitted shooting 19-year-old Jake Haun on Sept. 3 as the two men handled firearms in the basement of Haun's house in Laurel.
In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors will ask a judge to sentence Nelson to a suspended prison term of eight years. Nelson's attorney will ask for a lesser sentence of a six-year deferred sentence. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Judge Susan Watters said she will schedule a sentencing hearing later.
Nelson admitted in court that he was with Haun as the two men handled a rifle and handgun during a break from a session of video gaming. Haun had pointed the unloaded rifle at Nelson and pulled the trigger before Nelson did the same to Haun with the 9 mm pistol. Nelson did not know the pistol was loaded, and it fired when he pointed it at Haun's chest and pulled the trigger.
Haun died at the scene.
Before accepting the guilty plea, Watters asked Nelson if he had reviewed all of the evidence in the case and if he has had enough time to consider his legal options. Nelson acknowledged that he had reviewed the evidence and understood his legal rights.
Watters agreed to release Nelson without bond while he awaits sentencing.