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Man pleads guilty to weapons charge stemming from summer standoff

FARGO - A man who faced numerous charges stemming from an armed standoff in July pleaded guilty today to a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Fargo standoff
Leonard Ritter falls as he is hit with a electronic control device law enforcement officers rush in to end a day-long standoff in an apartment complex, Wenesday, July 8, 2009, in Fargo, N.D. (AP Photo/The Forum, Dave Wallis)

FARGO - A man who faced numerous charges stemming from an armed standoff in July pleaded guilty today to a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Leonard Ritter also admitted in Cass County District Court that his conduct in July met the elements of several other crimes, including terrorizing, preventing arrest and reckless endangerment.

However, based on a mental evaluation conducted by the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown, a judge found that Ritter was not guilty of those crimes due to lack of criminal responsibility.

Ritter will briefly return to the state hospital for an evaluation before returning to Cass County for sentencing.

Assistant Cass County State's Attorney Ryan Younggren said he is planning to ask that Ritter be sentenced to five years in prison with all but three years suspended.

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Ritter's attorney, Steve Mottinger, said he plans to ask that Ritter be sentenced to time served.

Both Younggren and Mottinger said they expect that when Ritter is not in custody he will be under dual supervision by both the state hospital and the department of corrections and that his taking of medication for mental health issues will be closely monitored.

Referring to last summer's standoff and an earlier incident involving Ritter in 1994 that prompted the formation of a local SWAT team, Younggren told the judge "we've been lucky" no one has been killed or seriously hurt.

"I'm not so sure that luck is going to hold out," Younggren added.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are owned by Forum Communications Co.

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