AUGUSTA — A former corrections officer has succeeded in avoiding a felony conviction related to the June 2017 shooting of a fellow trainee in a pickup truck outside the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro.

Matthew W. Benger, now 26, of Saco, on Thursday withdrew his plea from a year ago to a felony count of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and instead pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct charge related to that incident.

At the hearing at the Capital Judicial Center, Benger’s attorney, Roger Brunelle, said his client “had a long road” and “made an extraordinary effort” to fulfill all the requirements set out in a deferred disposition arrangement in the case.

Benger paid $15,000 restitution for the benefit of Matthew J. Morrison, who was shot; performed 50 hours of community service; and completed a gun safety course.

“You managed to get the good result, and that’s a good thing,” Justice William Stokes told Benger.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Michael Madigan, said the agreement called for the state to take no further action, so Benger was spared any jail time and fine.

At a hearing in the same courtroom a year ago, District Attorney Maeghan Maloney told a judge that the victim, Morrison, was 33 when the injury occurred. She requested Benger serve no jail time, saying Morrison agreed with the deferred disposition arrangement and wanted the two men to move forward. She also said Morrison hoped to help Benger with obtaining a pardon in the future.

The defendant and the victim shook hands at the close of that hearing.

It did not appear that Morrison, who was working as a corrections officer in Aroostook County when he was injured, attended Thursday’s hearing.

The incident occurred in the fifth week of a six-week course for corrections officers.

As Maloney outlined the events for Justice Michaela Murphy a year ago, Benger, Morrison, and a third trainee, Cody Gillis, then 25, of Brunswick, were in Gillis’ truck when the shooting occurred about 8 p.m. in the rear parking lot of the police academy complex, located off Oak Grove Road.

Benger and Gillis were Cumberland County corrections officers.

A 9 mm handgun owned by Gillis was stored in the console of his truck. Benger was a front-seat passenger and was handling the gun when it fired, striking Morrison, who was in the rear seat.

Morrison was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland for treatment.

Maloney said Benger took the gun out and loaded it, but there was some dispute about that, she noted.

She said he apparently intended to clear the gun when it went off, striking Morrison in the left knee and shattering a bone.

Morrison, of Mars Hill, read a letter to the court that day, saying his hospitalization and recovery proved difficult for his young family, but he also said he received support from his community as well.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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