A jury found Jesse Ili, a former linebacker for Minot State University's football team, guilty of two class C felonies and three misdemeanors Friday afternoon at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot following a three-day trial.
Ili was initially charged with attempted murder following a violent incident Aug. 30, 2013, that sent two Minot Police Department officers to the hospital that night.
The attempted murder charge was eventually reduced to aggravated assault, a Class C felony, but jurors instead convicted him of the lesser charge of assault, a Class A misdemeanor.
He was also convicted of two Class C felonies for simple assault on a peace officer and preventing arrest or discharge of other duties. His other two misdemeanor charges were for refusing to stop and possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana.
According to the North Dakota Century Code, Ili's two Class C felonies have a state defined maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine or both. The Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, a $3,000 fine or both and the Class B misdemeanors carry maximum penalties of 30 days in jail, a fine of $500 or both.
"One officer was knocked unconscious by Mr. Ili," said Captain John Klug of the Minot Police Department to media following the Ward County State Attorney's initial charge. "The action by Ili justified the attempted murder charge."
Officer Brandon Schmidt took the brunt of the injuries. A police affidavit filed with the case alleged that Ili was pursued by officers a short distance from a vehicle where drugs were being used before the other officer, Erik Laudenschlager, instead chased another occupant of the vehicle.
Then Ili turned on Schmidt, the affidavit asserts, and repeatedly hit him against a pole, knocking him unconscious before Laudenschlager and a third officer, Shane Johnson, were able to subdue him and arrest him.
"Obviously we thought we had sufficient evidence to support the aggravated assault. The jury found otherwise. They take these matters seriously," said Ward County State's Attorney Rozanna Larson following the verdict.
"As we do in many cases, when an officer is out on the scene usually there are only one or two people there that see that so we have to go based on the credibility of our witnesses. Everybody relies on that and here we had some corroborating supporting evidence like the pictures of the injuries that the officer sustained," she added. "That's how cases are won. On the testimony of witnesses and the corroborating evidence."
"I think it's very important that the original charge was attempted murder and, in the end, it ended up being a misdemeanor assault," said Andrew Schultz, Ili's defense attorney, of the incident during an interview following the verdict reading. "It could have been that he was looking at 20 years but now the maximum is one year. I think that's huge."
"When you look at the original charges you get that cold sense of dread that you're facing something like that," he added.
The case was originally assigned to North Central Judicial District Judge Richard Hagar, but he is currently on leave so Judge H. Patrick Weir oversaw the trial and will likely be the judge to do sentencing following the pre-sentence investigation.
Judge Weir is listed as a "surrogate" judge after retiring from the Southwest Judicial District and was specially appointed to the case by the North Dakota Supreme Court.
"It's unfortunate that those two minutes will define the rest of his life," Schultz said.
Ili, who was originally an engineering major before switching to mathematics, has two children in California where he attended Fresno State University before transferring to Minot State University. He will remain in the Ward County Jail until the conclusion of his pre-sentence investigation.
A sentencing hearing has not yet been set.