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Jesse James Johnson

Laporte man on meth during high-speed chase, crash

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A Laporte man who led authorities on a meth-fueled high speed chase that resulted in a deputy's serious injury testified Monday he'd gotten up early that day to go to a methadone clinic for treatment medication.

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Jesse James Johnson, 30 entered pleas to three charges stemming from the February incident in which his pit bulls attacked Dep. Dan May, seriously injuring him.

He likely will face 108 months in prison. Sentencing was set for July 16.

Johnson was stopped in his driveway after returning home from a St. Cloud methadone clinic for treatment of his drug addictions, he testified.

Authorities were trying to serve an outstanding warrant. Instead, Johnson's girlfriend got out of the vehicle and he led two squad cars on a high-speed chase through forest roads at speeds reaching 80 mph.

Johnson's car crashed on County Road 37. As deputies moved in, Johnson testified he jumped into the back seat of the car and threw two pit bulls at May, who was bitten trying to apprehend Johnson.

A subsequent search of the vehicle turned up methamphetamine in the purse belonging to Johnson's girlfriend.

Johnson pled guilty to one count of a Second Degree Controlled Substance Crime and Fleeing Officers Resulting in Substantial Bodily Harm and entered an Alford plea to a charge of Third Degree Assault.

In an Alford plea, the defendant agrees there's sufficient evidence that a jury would convict of the crime charged.

Johnson indicated he has an 11th grade education and suffered from mental health issues that are now cleared up.

"And you do understand a pit bull is considered a dangerous weapon?" defense attorney Blair Nelson questioned Johnson during the proceeding.

Johnson agreed and also agreed May had suffered "substantial bodily harm." Johnson may be asked to make restitution for May's injuries and property damage arising from the chase. Several signs were mowed down along the route.

In the plea deal, numerous other charges were dismissed.

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Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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