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Paynesville Press - October 10, 2001

Three plead guilty in plea bargain

By Linda Stelling

Three men pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in Stearns County District Court on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

Douglas Salzl, 39, of Paynesville, Jesse Thelen, 30, of Albany, and Corey Lemke, 22, of Richmond were all involved in a bar fight on Sept. 4, 2000, in St. Martin.

Robert Northway of Richmond died after the fight.

A trial was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Oct. 2, but the three agreed to a plea agreement in which the fifth degree assault charges were dropped in exchange for pleading guilty to lesser charges.

Part of the agreement was that the disorderly conduct convictions would become petty misdemeanors after one year if the three men abide by conditions imposed by the judge. The judge has ordered all three men to avoid contact with Bryan Northway or Robert Northway's widow; to follow their probation rules; and to have no similar offenses.

Why the men agreed to the plea agreement was unclear. Attorney Bob Stoneburner, who represents Thelen, declined to comment on why his client agreed to the agreement. The Press's effort to contact the attorneys for the other men was unsuccessful.

The Stearns County Attorney's Office recommended sentences of 30 days in jail and $300 fines for each man on the disorderly conduct charges. The maximum they could receive is a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.

Judge Paul Widick has ordered a presentence investigation to be done before sentencing. "Depending on what the judge finds, he could order a lesser penalty," said Stoneburner.

The three men will appear before Judge Widick at 3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 26, for sentencing.

Two other men still face charges stemming from the fight: Fred Doubek of Paynesville and Bryan Northway of Richmond.

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