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O'Neill and Zinke

Former Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill and his father Tom are greeted by fellow SEAL Ryan Zinke before the keynote address to the Montana Stockgrowers Association Annual Convention at the Rimrock Auto Arena on Friday, December 4, 2015.

Larry Mayer, 2015 file photo

BUTTE -- The Butte-Silver Bow County Attorney's office dropped DUI charges against Butte native Rob O'Neill Wednesday morning -- 15 minutes before the former Navy SEAL who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden was due to stand trial in city court.

O’Neill’s misdemeanor DUI charge -- stemming from an incident in April of this year -- was amended to a misdemeanor charge of negligent endangerment. According to the agreement filed between O'Neill and the county attorney's office, prosecution of the amended charge will be deferred for up to 12 months as O'Neill undergoes treatment through the Department of Veteran Affairs for the issues that led to his arrest.

O’Neill was not present for Wednesday’s proceedings.

"I am pleased that the charge has been dropped and the case dismissed without prejudice. I look forward to putting this matter behind me," O'Neill said in a statement through CRC Public Relations.

If O'Neill violates the terms of the agreement within those 12 months, including breaking any laws or not completing VA treatment, the county attorney has the right to move forward with prosecution. If O'Neill successfully follows the terms of the agreement, the endangerment charge will be dropped.

Although both parties in the agreement state probable cause exists to charge O'Neill, Deputy County Attorney Anne Shea said her office did not have faith they could win a jury trial. Shea did not elaborate why, citing confidentiality and defendant privacy.

Shea said her office had been discussing potential resolution with O'Neill's attorney Mark Parker since June, and finalized the agreement Tuesday.

"We're glad it's over," Parker said.

The parties also agreed that medication prescribed to O'Neill to treat symptoms related to his military service formed the basis for the DUI charge.

Police found O'Neill asleep at the wheel of his running Nissan Sentra at the Town Pump at Montana and Platinum streets at 2:30 a.m. on April 8. Police opened the car door, waking O'Neill, who failed sobriety tests and refused a Breathalyzer test. The police report said O'Neill said he had one drink, then recanted, and that he may have taken Ambien, a prescription sleep aid drug.

O'Neill was arrested and cited for driving under the influence of alcohol, and his license suspended.

"The facts are that I took a prescribed sleep aide to help deal with long-standing severe insomnia. While the timing was bad and I highly regret this decision, I am innocent of the charge and have entered a plea of not guilty," O'Neill said in a press release through his public relations firm on April 8.

O'Neill gained notoriety in 2014 when he came forward to claim credit as the point man of SEAL Team Six who shot Osama bin Laden dead in a May 2, 2011, raid on a compound code-named Operation Neptune Spear in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

"In looking at the facts of the case I feel the agreement that was reached is a reasonable resolution to this matter," Sheriff Ed Lester said in a statement Wednesday.


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