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Unsealed documents in Fargo manslaughter case reveal prosecution's tactics

Darren Patterson appears in Cass County District Court on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017.David Samson / The Forum1 / 3
Jamie Grant2 / 3
Darren Patterson3 / 3

FARGO — Documents unsealed this week in Cass County District Court shed light on the prosecution's approach to a case involving Darren Patterson, who is accused of causing another man's death with a punch outside a Fargo bar in May.

Patterson, 43, is charged with felony manslaughter in the death of James "Jamie" Grant.

Earlier this year, Judge Tom Olson, without explanation, sealed documents relating to the case.

Gray Television Group, parent company of KVLY-TV, also known as Valley News Live, filed papers with the court asking that it be allowed to intervene in the case and asking that the sealed documents be unsealed.

Olson signed an order this week allowing the company to intervene and ordering that the documents be unsealed.

The documents are notices that let the court know the prosecution intends to introduce certain evidence. One piece of evidence prosecutors plan to present is information regarding an assault Patterson committed in August 2010 at Dempsey's Pub in Fargo.

The notice of intent stated that in the 2010 case Patterson head-butted a man named Casey Carr because he believed Carr had disrespected him. "Evidence of the act (in 2010) is proof of the defendant's intent in this case," the notice said.

Authorities have said Patterson became involved in an altercation with Grant and two other men and that Grant died after Patterson punched him, causing him to fall and hit the back of his head on the ground outside the HoDo Restaurant and Lounge May 27.

Patterson also faces a felony aggravated assault charge for allegedly knocking Christopher Sang unconscious and a simple assault charge for allegedly striking Jamie Grant's brother, Jeffrey Grant, in the mouth. Patterson is formerly of Fargo but now lives in Las Vegas.

Prosecutors said in the unsealed documents that after Patterson and the victims were kicked out of seperate entrances of the HoDo, Patterson hurried back to confront the victims as they were walking away.

"Put simply, the defendant intended to assault, and actually did assault, the victims because they had disrespected him," according to the documents, which added that multiple witnesses saw Patterson strike and knock two victims to the ground, while no witnesses saw either victim attempt any strikes against Patterson.

According to the documents, a video confirms Patterson hurried past all entrances to the bar to confront the victims.

Another piece of evidence the prosecution gave notice it plans to introduce is an image obtained from Patterson's Facebook page that shows him wearing a shirt that read: "Talk Shit, Get Hit."

According to the prosecutors, the words on Patterson's shirt showed his frame of mind and that "he intended to physically injure those who disrespected him."

Jack McDonald, counsel for the North Dakota Newspaper Association and the North Dakota Broadcasters Association, applauded KVLY-TV for filing a motion to vacate the order closing public access to some of the court records in this case. He said the records never should have been closed in the first place. The two media associations, along with Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum, had been planning to join in the motion for opening the documents, McDonald said.

Patterson's attorney, Bruce Quick, said Thursday, Dec. 28, that the prosecution had asked for the documents to be sealed and the judge signed the order sealing them all without input from the defense.

Quick said when KVLY-TV requested the documents be unsealed, there was no reason to oppose the request because much of the information relating to the notices was already known to the public.

Prosecutor Ryan Younggren said Thursday the prosecution asked that the notices be sealed as part of a long-standing practice of attempting to shield pre-trial motions in high-profile cases in order to avoid tainting the prospective jury pool.

He said the prosecution decided it would not fight the unsealing of the documents after it became clear information they contained was already in the public domain and because of the fact that if a hearing was held on the request to unseal the documents their contents would likely be revealed.

A request for comment from the attorney representing KVLY-TV had not been answered by the time this story went to print.

Dave Olson
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