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Man pleads guilty to fleeing police before fatal Fergus Falls crash

A plea agreement calls for Cody Freitag to serve almost 19 years in prison.

Frietag, Cody.jpg
Cody James Freitag
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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — A Minnesota man has admitted to fleeing police before crashing into a vehicle, killing a couple at a downtown Fergus Falls, Minnesota, intersection.

Cody James Freitag, 31, of Barrett, pleaded guilty last week to two felony counts of fleeing peace officers. A hearing scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 23, was canceled after he signed a plea agreement and appeared to enter the pleas on Sept. 15.

The plea agreement calls for Freitag to serve 225 months, or almost 19 years, in prison. Each of the fleeing charges carried a maximum punishment of 40 years in prison.

Two criminal vehicular homicide charges, which only could be punishable by up to 10 years in prison, will be dismissed.

The October 2020 pursuit and crash resulted in the deaths of Steven, 72, and Diane Christianson, 71.

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Freitag, who will be sentenced Nov. 1, was involved in an Oct. 2 vehicle pursuit that began at the Casey's General Store, 1232 N. Union Ave., in Fergus Falls. Two Otter Tail County deputies, including former Deputy Kelly Backman , had planned to arrest Freitag at the gas station on several outstanding warrants.

The two were posing as an acquaintance of Freitag's with plans to meet him, but Freitag fled in a vehicle when he realized they were deputies, according to court documents.

Freitag hit a squad car in the Casey's parking lot before jumping a curb and driving west on Fir Avenue at high speed, according to court documents. One squad car's tires went flat, leaving one of the deputies stranded.

Backman continued to follow Freitag, who drove through a stop sign at Union Avenue while driving east on Cavour Avenue in downtown Fergus Falls, a criminal complaint said.

That's where he collided with the Christiansons' vehicle, which was northbound on Union. Both victims died at the scene.

Freitag was treated for injuries.

Investigators discovered Backman had fentanyl in his system during the chase. Drug paraphernalia was found in his desk and locker, and he failed to log some drug-related items into evidence, despite reporting that he found them during his work as a narcotics officer, court documents said.

Backman pleaded guilty on May 28 to misconduct by a public official. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail but was allowed to serve that time on electronic home monitoring. He is no longer a deputy.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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