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Associated Press, Published June 01 2013

ND man sentenced in fatal drunken driving crash

BISMARCK — A New Town man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for a drunken driving crash that killed an 84-year-old woman.

Merrill Mann Jr. pleaded guilty in federal court in February to involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced on Friday by U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who said the punishment was the maximum allowed by federal law for involuntary manslaughter.

The judge cited Mann's history with alcohol, his blood alcohol concentration at the time of the fatal crash and a new driving under the influence charge while Mann was at a halfway house pending sentencing as reasons for the maximum sentence.

Authorities said Mann's blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit when he caused a crash west of New Town in April 2012.

The crash killed Roberta Kiwimagi, who was a passenger in a van that collided with Mann's pickup. Kiwimagi had been traveling home with family members from a funeral.

The Bismarck Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/13rcVv9 ) that Mann was arrested in Bismarck in March for drunken driving, while awaiting sentencing. He has not made a court appearance on that charge.

After he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in February, Mann was placed in the Bismarck Transition Center pending sentencing and was prohibited from driving or drinking alcohol. Bismarck police officers arrested him on March 30 for drunken driving. His blood-alcohol concentration in that case was more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said Mann had five prior convictions in tribal court. Prosecutors had agreed to recommend a sentence on the low range of federal sentencing guidelines as part of a plea agreement in the case. But when Mann was arrested in Bismarck, they rescinded parts of the offer.

At the time Mann was charged in municipal court, Assistant Bismarck City Attorney Paul Fraase said there were no offenses on Mann's driving record. Under state law, the state Department of Transportation can put driving offenses from tribal court on a person's recordt, but it is up to the tribal court whether offenses get reported.

Fraase said he has never seen a tribal court offense on a state driving record.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.