Charge reduced in former MSU football player case

Jesse Devon Ili, 21, West Covina, Calif., had his Class A felony charge of attempted murder reduced to a Class C felony charge of aggravated assault at a preliminary hearing in Northwest Judicial District Court at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot Thursday.

The other five charges remain unaltered. There are the two additional Class C felony charges of simple assault on a peace officer and preventing arrest or discharge of other duties. The other charges are misdemeanor charges for ingesting a controlled substance, refusing to halt, and possession of marijuana.

“Well, the state hasn’t told me why they did that (reduce the main charge) but I assume it’s because the evidence just didn’t support that charge,” said defense attorney Jesse Lange, of the Fargo-based Aaland Law Firm, to The Minot Daily News by phone. “Obviously we don’t think the other charges were, either, but that charge is clearly not supprted by the evidence.”

The charges stem from an Aug. 30 incident when a GMC Yukon containing Ili and five others was stopped by police who reported, in a complaint affidavit, that there was “a strong smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle.” The vehicle had been reported to Minot Central Dispatch as “suspicious” earlier in the night.

During the stop Minot Police officer Erik Laudenschlager, according to deposition, saw strange movement coming from a passenger in the rear, who turned out to be Ili, and asked him to step outside the vehicle. While initially compliant, Ili then allegedly resisted the handcuffs and began to flee. Officer Brandon Schmidt took chase, while Laudenschlager pursued another fleeing occupant of the vehicle before running back toward Ili and Schmidt after hearing a cry for help.

There, according to an affidavit, Schmidt was allegedly being beaten by Ili against a retaining wall post as his body “appeared to be limp and unconscious.” Laudenschlager then used a taser to attempt to stop the attack, but that failed. More taser firings and violence ensued before a third taser attempt subdued Ili long enough for officers to handcuff and restrain him before backup arrived.

Prosecutor Rozanna Larson, the State’s Attorney for Ward County, was unavailble for comment Friday.

The change in charges reduced the statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison down to just five years.

Lange said that he has not been offered a plea deal by prosecutors at this point but added that he could neither confirm nor deny whether he would accept a deal at all.