Manslaughter charge dropped against Fargo man

A police car.
A police car.(Source: Associated Press)
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 11:14 AM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - The charges of Manslaughter, Minor in consumption or possession and Minor in liquor establishment were all dropped against 19-year-old Elijah Viestenz Monday morning.

Viestenz was originally charged with criminal vehicular homicide, failure to report a death, minor in consumption and minor in a liquor establishment. The charge of criminal vehicular homicide against Viestenz was amended back in March and changed to manslaughter. The State’s Attorney’s Office says the charges were dropped Monday morning against Viestenz as part of a plea deal.

Instead, Viestenz pleaded guilty Monday morning to the charge of Duty of give information and aid-Death-Negligent. The State Attorney’s Office says the charge Viestenz plead guilty to is a Class B Felony and is punishable of up to 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 fine, or both.

Police say 21-year-old Isaiah Johnson was in the car with Viestenz at the time of a single-car crash. Johnson was thrown from the passenger seat and died from his injuries.

Court documents say just before 1 a.m. on Feb. 13th, Fargo Police were called to 18 St. N and Great Northern Dr. for a severe car versus pole crash. The documents say Viestenz told dispatchers that ‘his buddy’ had been driving, they crashed and he was thrown from the vehicle. When officers arrived, documents say Johnson’s injuries were catastrophic, and Viestenz was nowhere to be seen.

When officers researched the vehicle involved, documents say they found several traffic stops dating back to 2018. Viestenz had been the driver in all of the instances.

Officers later found Viestenz at his mother’s home in West Fargo. Documents say Viestenz’s mother picked him up from the scene of the crash. Viestenz had serious injuries and was soon transported to the hospital.

When officers spoke to Viestenz, he admitted to drinking before the crash and said he believed he was driving at the time of the crash. Documents state Viestenz was drinking at Cactus Jack’s Saloon from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. that night.

Sentencing against Viestenz is set to happen in 60 to 90 days.

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