Prosecutors claimed in court Friday, June 7, that a man accused of manslaughter after an attack outside a downtown bar in Williston is a known gang member.
Police say that 26-year-old Justin Crites, also known as Preacher, attacked Jay LePage early on the morning of May 4 at The Shop Bar. Crites, a member of the Prairie Rattlers Motorcycle Club, was charged Friday with manslaughter, a class B felony.
He was ordered held Friday on $250,000 bond.
LePage had a broken jawbone and a preliminary autopsy found the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the back of the head, according to court documents.
LePage and his wife, Colleen, had gone to The Shop just before closing time early on May 4 to have a drink, and outside the bar, Colleen LePage got into an argument with Jennifer Young, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Northwest District Court. During the argument, Crites stepped in and told Colleen LePage not to disrespect his family.
Special Agent Charissa Remus, the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent who wrote the probable cause affidavit, wrote that Crites was referring to Young as family because Crites and her cousin, Glen Davis, were both members of the Prairie Rattlers. Colleen LePage told investigators that she left the bar and went to her car after the incident.
After about 10 to 15 minutes, bartenders from The Shop came to her car and told her that something had happened to her husband, court records indicate. She said she found Jay LePage lying unconscious on the sidewalk by the bar and that several people told her that Crites had hit Jay LePage.
Young also spoke with investigators and said that after Colleen LePage went to her car, Crites and Davis moved down the sidewalk to talk with Jay LePage. Davis was apparently angry with Jay LePage because he believed Jay LePage had said something negative about Davis’ deceased father.
Young told police that another member of the Prairie Rattlers, referred to in charging documents only as “Porky,” was blocking the sidewalk as Crites and Davis approached Jay LePage. He wasn’t allowing anyone to get near the three, investigators wrote.
“Ms. Young stated that another Prairie Rattler member, known to her as ‘Porky,’ was blocking the sidewalk so nobody could go near them, saying, ‘They’ve got their business, just leave them,’” Remus wrote in the probable cause affidavit.
Young said she didn’t see the altercation, but that when she went back in the bar, she saw people running and people driving away on their motorcycles. She saw Jay LePage lying on the sidewalk and Davis later told her that Crites struck Jay LePage, charging documents state.
Investigators also interviewed a witness who knew Crites and was walking near the bar at the time of the incident. The witness said Crites ran up to Jay LePage, struck him in the face “with a forceful blow,” and that caused Jay LePage to fall backwards, court records state.
In the probable cause affidavit, Remus wrote that it appears Jay LePage struck his head on the sidewalk, which caused a brain bleed that eventually lead to his death on May 7 in a Minot hospital.
At a bond hearing Friday, Michael Kuna, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, asked for Crites to be held on $1 million bond. He said despite the fact Crites has never been convicted of a serious crime, his affiliation with the Prairie Rattlers and the seriousness of the crime he’s accused of justified the high bond.
“The defendant is a known gang member,” Kuna told Northwest District Judge Paul Jacobson.
Kuna said Crites was seen in the bar with other members of the Prairie Rattlers, that he was accompanied by another member when he committed the assault and that a third member was blocking people from intervening.
Kuna also said Crites was a flight risk.
“The defendant is facing serious prison time,” he said. “He has everything to lose and nothing to gain.”
A class B felony carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Crites, however, told Jacobson that he wasn’t going to flee.
“I don’t plan on running,” he said. “This is my home.”
Crites told the judge he had lived in the area since 2014 and had worked for Agri Industries for two years.
“I work here; I live here,” he said.
Jacobson set Crites’ bond at $250,000, saying he thought that recognized the seriousness of the charge he was facing.
Crites is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on the manslaughter charge July 3.