"Where Fillmore County News Comes First"
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
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Fri, Mar 28th, 2003
Posted in Features
Posted in Features
Andy Harstad of Harmony was sentenced to 90 days in jail, placed on five years probation and fined $800 after pleading guilty to felony Criminal Vehicular Homicide and two other charges stemming from an incident which resulted in the death of Justin Mandelko of rural Preston on May 26, 2000.
“Justin made a personal choice to get on the ATV that night,” Judge James Fabian told Harstad prior to sentencing on Friday, March 21. “But you made the choice to violate the law.” Fabian told Harstad that he chose to consume alcohol, chose to take a vehicle that didn’t belong to him and chose to drive it in a reckless manner. In addition to the criminal vehicular charges, Harstad pled guilty to Driving Under the Influence and to Motor Vehicle Use Without Consent. Harstad testified in court in January that on the night of May 25, he and some friends from Fillmore Central High School were drinking beer at the Mandelko residence. In the early morning hours of May 26, the group went to the Kevin Johnson residence in rural Harmony. Johnson’s son had been with the group earlier. While at the Johnson residence, Harstad took an ATV belonging to Johnson without permission. Mandelko got on the back of the ATV driven by Harstad. The accident took place on a gravel road off of Highway 44 near Bristol. Harstad admitted that alcohol played a part in the events of that night. Prior to sentencing, five members of Justin Mandelko’s family, including his father, mother and brother, addressed the court and spoke of how Justin’s loss had affected them. Nathan Mandelko, Justin’s brother, said that his brother “didn’t deserve to die the way he did.” He asked that justice be served in the wrongful death of his brother. Prosecutor Chuck MacLean told the court that Harstad gave authorities misleading information after the accident and that his actions on the night of Justin’s death were a charade to keep himself out of trouble. “Andy Harstad was more interested in protecting himself instead of his friends best interest,” MacLean said, urging that Harstad be sentenced “on all the facts.” Defense Attorney Craig Cascarano told the court that “this was a tragedy beyond anyone’s imagination,” and urged the court to sentence his client to community service rather than jail time. Cascarano said that he had received 57 letters that were written on his client’s behalf, stating that Harstad is honest, a leader and a good person. Harstad addressed the court prior to sentencing stating that he was “truly sorry for what happened.” He said that he had suffered each day since that night, and that he accepted full responsibility for his actions. On the Criminal Vehicular Homicide charge, Fabian stayed adjudication for five years. He ordered Harstad to participate in victim conferencing, undergo a psychological evaluation and remain abstinent from alcohol during the sentencing period. Harstad was sentenced to 90 days in jail and fined $1000 for Driving Under the Influence; $700 of the fine and the jail time was stayed for one year. For Motor Vehicle Use Without Consent, Fabian stayed adjudication for five years, but fined Harstad $500 and sentenced him to 90 days in jail. Harstad will have to serve 30 days in jail and another 30 days through community service. The jail time will be served after June 1 so that Harstad can complete this college semester. Two area men plead guilty to meth charges Tim Prigge of Lewiston and Broc Buytaert of Rushford made conditional pleas of guilty to charges related to the manufacture of methamphetamine in Fillmore County District Court on Friday, March 21. The The charges are from an incident that took place in Rushford on May 8, 2002. At that time, Prigge, Buytaert and Mark Heath were arrested at the scene and charged with multiple felony counts to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine. Heath, of Lanesboro, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Monday, March 17. Under the plea agreement, Prigge pled guilty to aiding and abetting in the manufacture of methamphetamine on the condition that three other charges were dropped. He is expected to receive a sentence of seven years in prison. According to Prigge’s testimony, his role in the manufacture of methamphetamine was to strip batteries. Buytaert agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine on the condition that all other charges were dropped. Buytaert, who rented the garage where the methamphetamine was produced, is expected to receive nine years in prison. Buytaert told the court that he was to be given “free product” in return for helping manufacture methamphetamine. Both Buytaert and Prigge identified Heath as the kingpin behind the crime saying that Heath knew how to make the drug.” Both cases were prosecuted by David Voigt of the Minnesota Attorney General’s office. A pre-sentence investigation has been ordered on both men, with sentencing set for April 25.