Man to change plea in drunken driving crash that killed friend in Fargo

Police say Elijah Viestenz was not carded and served alcohol at Cactus Jack's Saloon when he was 19 before the crash, police said.

FSA Crash report

FARGO — A 20-year-old man is scheduled to change his plea after being accused of killing his friend in a drunken driving crash in February in Fargo.

Elijah Jace Viestenz, 20, of Fargo, was slated to go to trial Tuesday, July 13, in Clay County District Court on several charges, including a Class B felony of manslaughter, in connection to the Feb. 13 crash that killed 21-year-old Isaiah James Johnson, of Fargo.

The trial was canceled, and Viestenz will appear Aug. 9 for a felony change of plea hearing.

He previously pleaded not guilty to allegations that he was driving a vehicle at a high rate of speed when he hit a pole at Great Northern Drive and 18th Street North. Police said officers found Johnson on the ground and alcohol at the scene of the crash around 1 a.m. Feb. 13.


Viestenz was not at the crash site, but he called 911 to report Johnson, who died at Sanford Medical Center, was driving, according to court documents.

Police connected Viestenz to the vehicle after looking at traffic stops where he was the driver, an incident report said. Officers learned he also was taken to the hospital to be treated for severe injuries, the report said.

Investigators claimed Viestenz, who was 19 years old at the time of the incident, admitted to drinking prior to the crash, according to court documents. Police discovered he was drinking at Cactus Jack’s Saloon in Fargo before the crash.

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. The City Commission is expected to approve that fine at its next meeting.

Viestenz also faces a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident as well as one misdemeanor each of minor in consumption and minor in a liquor establishment.

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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