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Moen pleads guilty in Gaarsland beating death outside Fargo bar

FARGO -- A Fargo man pleaded guilty Friday in Cass County District Court to Class AA felony murder and Class C felony conspiracy to commit aggravated assault in the fatal bar beating May 17 of a father of five here.

FARGO -- A Fargo man pleaded guilty Friday in Cass County District Court to Class AA felony murder and Class C felony conspiracy to commit aggravated assault in the fatal bar beating May 17 of a father of five here.

Scott Moen pleaded guilty in the death of 35-year-old Joey Gaarsland, who died in the hospital of severe head injuries after he was attacked on May 17, allegedly by Moen and three of his friends, outside of Rick's Bar following a confrontation inside between Moen and Gaarsland's wife.

Moen also pleaded guilty to assaulting Laura Gaarsland, who suffered a broken bone and was possibly knocked unconscious while trying to protect her husband.

Laura Gaarsland said in an interview Friday that Moen's guilty plea was a moment of "relief" in a "horrible" past few months.

"Life is real, my friend, life is real. A lot more real than most people think," she said over the phone as she tried to calm a crying child.

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Jessy Olson, Nicholas Morris and Jason Oien, all of Fargo, still face Class AA felony murder charges and three counts each of criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault on Joey Gaarsland, his wife and someone who intervened to stop the beating and was also knocked unconscious.

"I could not imagine being them and being able to fall asleep at night," Laura Gaarsland said of the defendants, who she said should take take full responsibility for her husband's death.

"It's really sad, because what's done is done," she said. "God'll take care of them."

Moen faced two additional aggravated assault conspiracy charges, which were dropped Friday when he entered his pleas.

Cass County prosecutor Tristan Van de Streek said that while he had discussions with Moen's defense attorney about possible sentencing recommendations, a deal wasn't struck in advance of Moen's plea.

The maximum sentence for a Class AA felony murder conviction in North Dakota is life behind bars without parole.

Court records show Moen has a significant criminal history, including aggravated assault, interfering with a domestic protection order, burglary and terrorizing.

Van de Streek declined to comment on whether Moen would assist the state with providing evidence against the other defendants in exchange for less time, but said that since Moen doesn't have the presumption of innocence any longer, he's not guaranteed a right to silence.

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Judge Susan Bailey ordered a pre-sentence investigation of Moen.

The remaining defendants are set for upcoming trial dates.

Related Topics: CASS COUNTY
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