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Montana Governor’s Aide Resigns

September 1, 2001

HELENA, Mont. (AP) _ A top aide to Gov. Judy Martz resigned unexpectedly Friday, hours after his attorney said he would plead guilty to negligent homicide in the car-accident death of the state House majority leader.

Shane Hedges, 27, was driving a sport utility vehicle that rolled down an embankment on a winding dirt road as the two men were returning from a steak house in the old mining town of Marysville, northwest of Helena, investigators said.

A test showed Hedges was legally drunk with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent, or 50 percent higher than the legal limit, prosecutors said. House Majority Leader Paul Sliter, Hedges’ best friend, died when he was thrown from the SUV and it rolled over him.

``I respect Shane and with great sadness accept his decision,″ Martz said. ``He has placed the needs of the state of Montana and this office first.″

Hedges had been Martz’ policy director since she took office in January. He also managed her gubernatorial campaign last year. Hedges had been on leave from his $65,000-a-year job since the Aug. 15 crash.

The resignation came hours after Hedges’ attorney said he would plead guilty next Thursday.

``After having reviewed all the circumstances regarding the accident and it being clear that it was his fault, Shane definitely wanted to accept responsibility for what he had done,″ said his attorney, Greg Jackson.

Prosecutor Leo Gallagher said he will ask that Hedges receive jail time. The maximum penalty for negligent homicide is 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Hedges and Sliter were considered potential Republican stars in Montana politics and had expressed interest in running for higher office.

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