Attorney seeks lesser assault charge

Local News

An attorney for a teen facing two felony counts of assault in the beating of a Blue Earth Area football teammate wants the charges reduced.

In a letter to Judge Michael Trushenski dated March 28, Minneapolis attorney Chris Ritts says he will ask the court for what he calls “a durational departure on a straight plea,” for 19-year-old Wyatt Eugene Tungland.

Ritts says he wants a gross misdemeanor assault sentence for his client and made the request during a pre-trial hearing held March 29.

A motion hearing has been scheduled for April 17, however, it’s not clear if it is to address Ritts’ request. The hearing is being held a week before the start of Tungland’s four-day trial set for April 23-26.

Tungland has pleaded not guilty to third-degree assault, aiding and abetting third-degree assault and furnishing alcohol to persons under the age of 21.

In the letter, Ritts says the assault that occurred on Oct. 19, 2017, during a house party in Winnebago did not cause substantial bodily injury.

“Wyatt played a minor role in the crime compared with other defendants, he lacked substantial capacity,” he says. “Grounds exist that tend to excuse and/or mitigate his culpability, although not amounting to a complete defense and finally that he is particularly amenable to probation.”

Ritts says the victim’s alleged concussion diagnosed Nov. 6, 2017, was the result of over a dozen football games and practices in which he took multiple hits to his head. He says one of the hits on Oct. 28 was so severe that it cracked his helmet.

According to Ritts, medical reports also will show that the victim was suffering from mononucleosis during this time.

“Dr. Steven Noran, M.D., a board certified neurologist, will testify that based on the victim’s mono and subsequent athletic activities, no competent doctor could diagnose to a degree of medical certainty that he suffered a concussion on or about Oct. 19,” Ritts says.

Ritts contends that the evidence is incomplete and uncertain that his client committed the assault and that Tungland has an alibi as to where he was when the beating occurred.

“The victim never identified Wyatt in his statement as one of the people who hit him,” says Ritts. “We have a text from the victim stating that he knows Wyatt did not hurt him and is his friend.”

Ritts says his client, three other co-defendants in the case and the victim were consuming alcohol at the party and perceptions are unclear.

The judge is being asked to consider that Tungland suffers from ADHD and concussion syndrome that affects his cognitive ability to remember, focus and understand.

Ritts says his client is currently taking medication to address his medical issues, has completed counseling and chemical dependency classes.In addition, Ritts says Tungland recently became a father, has child care duties for his son as well as finishing his GED and working to support his family.

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