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Minnesota Man Pleads Guilty to Assaulting a Man with an Axe Handle

MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court, a 47-year-old Red Lake man pleaded guilty to assaulting a Grand Rapids man with an axe handle. Joseph William Howard, Jr. pleaded guilty to one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Howard, who was indicted on February 22, 2012, entered his plea before United States District Court Judge John R. Tunheim.

In his plea agreement, Howard admitted that on January 13, 2012, he assaulted the victim at a Redby residence without just cause. According to a law enforcement affidavit filed in the case, authorities were called to a residence on the Red Lake Indian Reservation on that day. There, they found the victim, whose face had been severely beaten and lacerated. Officers also discovered blood splattered on the bed and bedroom walls where the victim was staying. A bloody axe handle was ultimately found behind the dryer in the home’s utility room. As a result of the assault, the victim suffered multiple fractures, and his left eye was so badly damaged it had to be surgically removed.

For his crime, Howard faces a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Judge Tunheim will determine his sentence at a future hearing. This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Red Lake Tribal Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deidre Y. Aanstad.

Because the Red Lake Indian Reservation is a federal-jurisdiction reservation, some of the crimes that occur there are investigated by the FBI in conjunction with the Red Lake Tribal Police Department. Those cases are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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