FARGO – Darren Patterson was sentenced on Thursday, Aug. 16, to 18 months in the state prison system for fatally punching Jamie Grant outside a Fargo bar in May 2017, despite a tearful plea from the victim’s widow who asked that Patterson get the maximum punishment of five years behind bars.
Grant's widow, Jenny Grant, told Cass County District Judge Tom Olson that 18 months was not enough for what happened to her husband.
"I just lost my soulmate of 22 years," she said. "I have been crying every day for 14 months straight."
Jenny Grant asked the judge to not accept the 18-month plea deal agreed upon by the prosecution and defense. "Knowing a plea bargain was made for this crime exasperates the nightmare," she said.
Jenny Grant told the courtroom there was a meeting at which Patterson and his defense team offered the Grant family financial support if she and her family would support a sentence that would resolve the criminal case. "The defendant's tactics are sickening," she said.
Patterson’s attorney, Bruce Quick, said after Thursday’s hearing that the defense team met with a civil attorney representing the Grant family to talk about a possible “global settlement” that addressed possibly resolving both the criminal and civil aspects of the case.
Jenny Grant told the courtroom that it’s been painful to watch Patterson speak out in the media, returning to the scene of the crime and talking on camera about the night her husband was hit. "He's perverse and disgusting," Jenny Grant said of Patterson.
"Keep Jamie's name out of your mouth, keep our family out of your head and stop patronizing us," she said.
Patterson, 44, spoke briefly during the hearing, saying he felt great sorrow for the Grant family’s loss. “I pray both of our families will heal,” he said.
Patterson said he was sorry for his actions, taking a few moments to compose himself as he talked. “I never wanted to be in this situation,” he said.‘A chance of redemption’
Judge Olson said the terms of the plea agreement gave him only two choices.
He said as part of the agreement, if he did not sign off on the 18-month sentence, Patterson would revoke his guilty plea and the case would go to trial, something that would likely only worsen the pain of the victims’ families. Patterson was also accused of hitting Jamie Grant’s brother, Jeff Grant, and friend Christopher Sang. Sang suffered a brain injury and continues to recover.
"I wish the court could do something to ease the pain of the Sang and Grant family," Olson said.
The judge told Patterson that he can’t make him think about what he has done, but he hopes he remembers. “Mr. Patterson, you are probably the only person here who has a chance of redemption,” Olson said.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Patterson pleaded guilty in June to negligent homicide, a Class C felony, and he entered an Alford plea to a Class C felony charge of aggravated assault.
With an Alford plea, a defendant doesn't necessarily agree an accusation is valid, but concedes a jury might find him guilty based on the evidence.
He initially faced more serious charges of aggravated assault and manslaughter. Both were Class B felonies.
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After Thursday’s hearing, prosecutor Ryan Younggren said he believed 18 months was a just sentence, given all of the factors involved in the case.
He said if the case had gone to trial, it could have resulted in a number of possible outcomes, including a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison if Patterson was found guilty, or no prison time at all if the defendant was found not guilty.
Taking a case to trial, he said, always brings with it risks.
“I’ve won some cases I was surprised at, I’ve lost some cases I was very surprised at,” he said.
After the hearing, Patterson, who had been free on bail, was taken to the Cass County Jail, pending placement in a prison facility. Younggren said he didn’t know if Patterson would serve his prison time in Bismarck or Jamestown.‘A time machine’
According to court documents, Patterson punched three men on May 27, 2017, outside the HoDo Restaurant and Lounge, 101 Broadway N.
One of the men, 45-year-old Grant, was struck once in the head. He hit the pavement and never regained consciousness. He died of his injuries nine days later.
A HoDo bartender told police that Grant and two other men got into a fight with Patterson in the bar on the night of the incident before all three were kicked out through separate doors, court documents stated.
Once outside, Patterson rushed back to the south side of the bar to confront the men, court documents stated.
During Thursday’s hearing, Jenny Grant said that since her husband’s death, she has had to leave her job and her hair is falling out. She’s struggled to help the couple's 8-year-old son cope with the death of his father, a loss he still grapples with.
“He told me, ‘Mom, I am going to get a time machine and go back in time to where you are standing behind Dad so you can catch him,’” Jenny Grant said.