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Emily Welker, Published April 15 2013

Victims in bar stabbing protest plea deal

FARGO – A victim’s children wept in a Cass County courtroom Monday as the man who stabbed their father was sentenced to five years behind bars.

Jason Jensen said some of his four children still have nightmares and sleep in his bedroom, reeling from the trauma of the stabbing near a Fargo bar last December.

“It just seems like a slap in the face to us, five years,” said Jensen of the attack, which left him with a pronounced scar running along one side of his jaw and lower cheek.

Jason Todd Pederson, 38, of Fargo, pleaded guilty in Cass County District Court Monday to two counts of Class B felony aggravated assault in a joint recommendation that prosecution and defense attorneys called a “fair” outcome.

Charging documents state when officers responded to a stabbing report about 2 a.m. Dec. 22 to Speck’s Bar, 2611 Main Ave., they found one man cut in the face and neck and another cut in the neck area.

Pederson fled in his vehicle but was stopped a few blocks away. He had been facing two counts of attempted murder, a more serious Class A felony.

“It’s not assault,” Jensen said in court, protesting to the plea to a lesser offense. “My wife and kids, what they’ve been through – all I did was protect my wife when he grabbed her, and I ended up very close to death.”

The other man injured in the stabbing also spoke out in court against the plea.

“I think this aggravated assault is insulting,” said Stephan Fletcher to the court, saying that he had been stabbed in the throat by Pederson from behind.

Fletcher said his injuries are still affecting him, and he is set to return to work today for the first time since the stabbing.

Pederson declined the judge’s invitation to speak in court on his own behalf.

Judge Steven Marquart sentenced Pederson to serve five years in prison with credit for 115 days served. Pederson was also ordered to five years of supervised probation after his release from prison.

Cass County Assistant State’s Attorney Reid Brady said prosecutors factored in the opinions of the victims and didn’t want to belittle their injuries but consider the deal appropriate.

“There’s always a risk at trial,” Brady said.

Among those risks were the memory problems of some witnesses who’d been drinking the night of the attack, Brady said.

Also, investigators found that witnesses’ stories had variations in what they recalled, and the state was concerned about the level of cooperation they might get from some witnesses.

“It was a decent resolution,” Brady said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541