BILLINGS, Mont. -- A hitchhiker from West Virginia pleaded guilty Monday to criminal charges in Montana for falsely claiming to be the victim of a drive-by shooting, leading to another man being jailed for an offense he did not commit.
Under a plea deal with prosecutors, Ray Dolin of Julian would receive a six-month suspended jail sentence and have to pay more than $2,000 in fines and $5,583 in restitution to the Valley County Sheriff's Office.
Dolin pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, making a false report and obstructing a peace officer during an appearance before state District Judge John McKeon in Valley County.
Sentencing was set for January 22.
The struggling photographer has admitted to shooting himself in the arm on June 9 while hitchhiking near Glasgow in northeastern Montana. He initially claimed it was a drive-by shooting and stuck with that story even when a Washington state man was arrested and jailed.
After his tale unraveled and Dolin was confronted by investigators, he claimed he had been trying to kill himself by shooting himself in the heart but missed.
Dolin also said he should have come forward with the truth sooner, but instead threw away the revolver he used to shoot himself and told authorities that he'd been shot by the driver of a maroon pickup, according to court documents.
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.
He spoke frequently about that memoir in the days after he shot himself -- to members of the family that pulled over to help him, to rescue workers and Valley County law enforcement and in interviews with The Associated Press.