A judge agreed Tuesday, Aug. 6, to lower the bond for a man accused of manslaughter after a deadly fight in downtown Williston in May, but not as much as the defense asked.
Northwest District Judge Kirsten Sjue said during a bond hearing Tuesday afternoon that lowering the bond for Justin Crites, 26, from $150,000 to $100,000 was as much as she felt comfortable doing. Misty Nehring, Crites’ public defender, had asked for his bond to be lowered to $25,000.
Crites was arrested in June and charged with manslaughter, a class B felony.
Police and prosecutors claim that early on the morning of May 4, Crites punched Jay LePage, 57, causing LePage to fall and hit his head on the sidewalk. LePage died in a Minot hospital days later.
Nehring argued during Tuesday’s bond hearing that because Crites had never been charged with a serious crime before and because he’d lived in the area for more than five years, he was not a flight risk or a danger to the community.
“There is no reason this bond needs to remain at $150,000,” she told Sjue.
Nathan Madden, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, argued that even though Crites had limited criminal history, that didn’t mean he wasn’t a danger. Madden argued that Crites punched LePage because he thought LePage had been disrespecting the family of a fellow member of the Prairie Rattles Motorcycle Club.
“To me that’s a threat to society,” Madden said.
Madden also argued that the Prairie Rattlers are a criminal gang and affiliated with other gangs.
In documents filed in the case, investigators refer to Crites and other members of the Prairie Rattlers as members of a gang. According to the affidavit of probable cause, Crites first confronted LePage after an altercation between LePage’s wife and a woman who was related to another member of the Prairie Rattlers.
In court, however, Nehring, however, disputed that. She said the Prairie Rattles were organized in 2007 and were known for community outreach.
According to the North Dakota Secretary of State, Prairie Rattlers MC was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2007.
Sjue said she understood Nehring’s arguments, but that the charge against Crites was serious enough to warrant a high bond.
“I do think the court has a legitimate concern in this case,” she said.
Crites is next due in court for a pretrial conference on Sept. 3.