FARGO – Darren Patterson, who’s accused of fatally punching Jamie Grant outside a Fargo bar over a year ago, entered pleas Thursday, June 14, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Patterson was initially charged with aggravated assault and manslaughter, both Class B felonies. On Thursday, he pleaded to lesser versions of those charges in Cass County District Court.
Instead of manslaughter, Patterson pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, a Class C felony. And instead of Class B aggravated assault, he entered an Alford plea to Class C 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.
Prosecutors recommended that Patterson serve 18 months with the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. A sentencing date will be set after a pre-sentence investigation is completed.
Prosecutor Ryan Younggren said Grant’s family is pleased to see guilty pleas. But he added that while not everyone on the prosecution side of the case may view the agreement as a full measure of justice, "we would all say it's a reasonable resolution."
Members of Grant’s family declined to comment Thursday.
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Younggren said the prosecution believes the proposed sentence is reasonable given all of the factors involved, including the fact the defendant has admitted wrongdoing.
He said if the case went to trial it could result 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.
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, Grant, 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.
Patterson originally entered not guilty pleas, and the case was set for a jury trial to start on Tuesday, June 19.
Attorney Mark Friese, who was standing in Thursday for Patterson’s main lawyer, Bruce Quick, said the defense and prosecution agreed to resolve the case through a plea agreement as the trial date loomed closer.
A separate misdemeanor count of simple assault against Patterson was previously dismissed.