A teen facing charges in connection with a January 2018 incident at the Youth Correctional Center in Mandan changed his pleas Wednesday, admitting to nine of the 10 charges against him and entering an Alford plea on the most serious.
Gavin Johnson pleaded guilty to seven Class C felonies, including assault on a correctional officer, terrorizing and interfering with an emergency call, and two misdemeanors. He entered an Alford plea on a charge of aggravated assault, a Class B felony. An Alford plea means Johnson does not admit guilt but acknowledges that the evidence in the case would likely convict him.
Johnson is one of four teens charged in what was described as a riot at the center. Morton County Assistant State’s Attorney Austin Gunderson said Johnson early in the 2018 incident allegedly followed a correctional officer into a closet and assisted another inmate in choking him. The guard was on his last breath, Gunderson said, and did everything he could to escape. One of the two handcuffed the officer before trying to escape from the facility, Gunderson said.
South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick accepted the pleas and ordered a presentence investigation. He set a sentencing date of Aug. 28.
Two of the other three teens charged in the incident have entered guilty pleas. Starson Buckles will be sentenced Sept. 9. Julian Wolf will be sentenced July 30. Trial dates of Sept. 17 and 18 are set for Elijah Barse.