BILLINGS, Mont. - A hitchhiker who falsely claimed to be the victim of a drive-by shooting received a four-year deferred sentence and was ordered to pay more than $7,500 in fines and restitution by a Montana judge, authorities said Tuesday.
The case of Ray Dolin, a struggling photographer from West Virginia, garnered international attention last year after he shot himself in the arm along a rural highway, then concocted a story about a random drive-by shooting as he was stopped for lunch. Dolin stuck with his tale even after a Washington state man was wrongly arrested and jailed in the case.
Dolin, 40, was apologetic during his sentencing on Monday before Judge John McKeon in Glasgow, Valley County Prosecutor Nickolas Murnion. The defendant had earlier pleaded guilty under a plea deal to a felony count of tampering with evidence and two misdemeanor charges.
The deferred sentence on the felony charge will be removed from Dolin's record after four years if all the conditions of his probation are satisfied, Murnion said. Dolin received a six-month suspended sentence on the misdemeanor charges, and was ordered to pay $2,000 in fines and $5,583 in restitution to the Valley County Sheriff's Office.
He also must continue receiving mental health treatment as a condition of sentencing. He's now living in Michigan, Murnion said, and could not be reached immediately for comment.
"He's been doing very well, very cooperative with those (mental health) services," Murnion said.
After Dolin shot himself last June, Lloyd Christopher Danielson III was arrested about 100 miles away and charged with felony assault, based on Dolin's description of his alleged shooter driving a maroon pickup.
Danielson had been passing through Montana for work in the nearby Bakken oil patch and was later cleared of the shooting when Dolin's story started to unravel. He ended up spending 13 days in jail on a drunken driving charge because he was intoxicated when he was first arrested.
Five days after the shooting, while being at a Veterans Administration Hospital, Dolin was confronted by investigators and admitted to shooting himself. He said that he should have come forward with the truth sooner, but was ashamed that he'd tried to kill himself and failed.
Valley County authorities alleged a more calculated motive: They said Dolin shot himself in an attempt to gain publicity for a photographic memoir on kindness that he claimed to be working on.
"His story is that it was a suicide attempt from depression. There's other theories about what went on there, but at this point, it doesn't matter what his motivation was," Murnion said Tuesday.
During his sentencing, Dolin asked for the return of a notebook he kept as a personal journal that was taken by authorities when he was arrested. Murnion said the notebook was returned.