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Fargo man pleads guilty in crash that killed friend

The manslaughter charge was dropped, but Elijah Viestenz will be sentenced for failing to report the death.

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Alexandru Cuznetov / Dreamstime / TNS
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FARGO — A 20-year-old man accused of killing his friend in a crash is no longer facing a manslaughter charge but he will still be sentenced for failing to report the death.

Elijah Jace Viestenz of Fargo pleaded guilty Monday, Aug. 9, to a Class B felony of failing to give information and aid in connection to the Feb. 13 crash that killed 21-year-old Isaiah James Johnson, of Fargo.

The charge has the same penalty as the manslaughter count, which was dropped along with misdemeanor charges of being a minor in a liquor establishment and consumption of alcohol by a minor.

Viestenz is slated to be sentenced on Jan. 18 and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Police alleged Viestenz was driving a vehicle at high speed and hit a pole at Great Northern Drive and 18th Street North. He called 911 but reported Johnson, who died at Sanford Medical Center after being found at the scene of the crash, was driving, according to court documents.

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Alcohol was also found at the scene, court documents said.

Police linked the vehicle to Viestenz and later found him after learning he too was taken to a hospital to be treated for severe injuries, court documents said. They alleged he went into Cactus Jack’s Saloon in Fargo before the crash and was served alcohol there.

The Fargo Liquor Control Board recommended fining the bar $500 after police determined a bartender there failed to card Viestenz and served the teenager alcohol.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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