Wahpeton man makes court appearance on car-related charges

Jon Eitel

A Wahpeton man is facing multiple charges, including possession of stolen property and criminal mischief, in Wahpeton.

Jon Orville Eitel, 41, made his initial appearance Monday, Feb. 22 before Richland County District Court. Eitel appeared via Zoom, according to court records.

Eitel faces one class C felony-level charge of possessing stolen property and one class A misdemeanor-level charge of criminal mischief, his criminal complaint states. Both charges relate to a Jan. 5, 2021 incident in Wahpeton.

On Jan. 5, court documents state, Eitel was arrested. During a search incident, a key to a Dodge vehicle was allegedly found in his pocket.

“Officers determined that the key belonged to a Dodge pickup that had been stolen from Wheaton, Minnesota,” documents continue. “The Dodge pickup was valued at more than $1,000 and the owner of the Dodge pickup was identified.”

Eitel also allegedly intentionally caused pecuniary loss of between $100-$2,000 on Jan. 5, documents state. That day, a complainant called law enforcement to report suspicious activity involving a dark-colored Chevy Astro van in Wahpeton. A brown Chevy Astro van was later observed in the city by Wahpeton police officers.

“The officers followed the Chevy Astro van and the van drove off at a high rate of speed,” the criminal complaint continued. “Officers later made contact with the driver of the Chevy Astro van who was identified as the defendant.”

According to court documents, the van’s owner did not authorize anyone to use it. The complaint against Eitel stated there was allegedly no key in the van, which appeared to have been hot-wired. This was determined because the van’s steering column was broken open and wires were exposed. According to the van’s owner, there was no prior damage to its steering column.

Eitel is providing his own legal defense, or acting pro se, according to court records. Richland County Assistant State’s Attorney Casey Moen represents the state of North Dakota. Judge Bradley Cruff presides.

In addition to his initial appearance, Eitel also appeared Monday before Richland County District Court for a preliminary hearing and/or arraignment. The hearing was regarding three additional charges dated Jan. 5: theft-possession valued between $1,000-$10,000 (a class C-level felony); fleeing a peace officer-vehicle-fleeing from felony (another class C-level felony); and reckless driving (a class B-level misdemeanor). Not guilty pleas have been entered for all three charges.

The maximum penalty for a class C felony in North Dakota is five years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both. The maximum penalty for a class A misdemeanor is 360 days imprisonment, a $3,000 fine, or both. The maximum penalty for a class B misdemeanor is 30 days imprisonment, a $1,500 fine, or both.

No additional court appearances for Eitel have been scheduled as of Tuesday, Feb. 23. He was not confined in the Richland County Jail as of Tuesday.

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