Man arrested in connection with May beating death at downtown Williston bar (copy)


A judge reduced the bond for a 26-year-old man accused of manslaughter to $150,000, on Tuesday, June 11, but refused to lower it as much as a defense attorney requested.

Justin Crites was charged last week with manslaughter, a class B felony, in connection with the death of 57-year-old Jay LePage in early May following an altercation outside The Shop Bar in Williston. On Friday, a judge set Crites’ bond at $250,000.

On Tuesday, Jeff Nehring, who represented Crites at a bond hearing, asked Northwest District Judge Kirsten Sjue to lower the bond to $20,000 and order Crites to wear a GPS monitor. Nehring said the original bond was too high for multiple reasons.

For one, he said, Crites has been charged with manslaughter, not murder. That means police and prosecutors believe that LePage died because Crites acted recklessly, not with intent to kill him, Nehring said.

Police say Crites punched LePage in the face early on the morning of May 4 outside The Shop. LePage fell backwards and struck his head on the sidewalk and died several days later in a Minot hospital.

Nehring argued that the charge Crites is facing, along with the fact he has no criminal record, meant he isn’t a danger to the community. He also said that Crites wasn’t a flight risk because he stayed in contact with investigators before his arrest and had offered to turn himself in.

Instead, he was arrested last week in Scobey, Montana, and extradited back to Williston. Nehring said Crites had waived his right to contest the extradition.

“Obviously, he’s not a flight risk, or he would have fled,” Nehring said.

Nehring said a bond of $20,000 would still require Crites to put a substantial amount of money on the line and the GPS monitoring would offer an additional layer of security.

Marlyce Wilder, Williams County state’s attorney, told Sjue that she wasn’t at the bond hearing Friday, but that she believed the $250,000 bond was appropriate.

“There was a life lost,” Wilder said.

Sjue said she understood Crites is presumed innocent, but said she didn’t think $20,000 was enough for bond.

“I do still have to take into account the seriousness of the allegations,” she said.

She set bond at $150,000.

“I don’t feel comfortable reducing it any further at this point,” she said.

Police and prosecutors say Crites, who is a member of the Prairie Rattlers Motorcycle Club, stepped in during a dispute between Jennifer Young and Colleen LePage, Jay LePage’s wife, around closing time on May 3. Crites intervened because Young’s cousin, Glen Davis, was a fellow member of the club.

After that, Crites and Davis approached LePage, because Davis believed LePage had said something disparaging about his deceased father, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Northwest District Court. A witness told police that Crites punched LePage and LePage fell backward.

LePage struck his head on the sidewalk, and that led to his death, investigators wrote in charging documents.

Crites is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing July 3.

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