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Plea deal possible in apartment manslaughter case

A Cloquet man facing manslaughter charges after an alleged fight gone wrong is working toward a plea deal with the Carlton County Attorney’s Office.

Joel Jay Ammesmaki, age 59, was charged with first-degree manslaughter in September for “causing the death of another while committing assault in the fifth degree with such force and violence” that death or great harm was “reasonably foreseeable.”

Ammesmaki was scheduled for a contested omnibus hearing to argue probable cause for the charges on Monday. The hearing was delayed by nearly an hour as attorneys for the defense and prosecution talked with each other first, before Ammesmaki’s attorney, William Gatton, met with Ammesmaki in a first-floor conference room.

When the hearing convened Monday, Gatton told judge Rebekkah Stumme they had been having settlement discussions that seemed “plausible” and wanted to waive the rights to a contested omnibus, which Ammesmaki confirmed for the court. Gatton had said in January he intended to file a notice of self defense and ultimately seek to have the charges dismissed for lack of probable cause.

Ammesmaki was arrested after police responded to a 911 call at around 2 a.m. Sept. 14 reporting an unwanted person in an apartment inside the Fond du Lac Veterans Supportive Housing building, where Ammesmaki lived.

According to the criminal complaint, when officers arrived they observed Ammesmaki standing near a couch and an unresponsive male, identified as Clyde Atwood, 60, lying face up on the floor with dried blood around his nostrils. Atwood was unresponsive, his eyes were partially open and he was not breathing, police reported. Ammesmaki allegedly told police he punched Atwood twice and the man fell down. Ammesmaki thought he was sleeping, according to the report.

Both men had been drinking whiskey, according to statements made by Ammesmaki. He also told police that Atwood had hit him, after swearing and calling him by the wrong name, and that he hit him in self defense.

According to a medical examiner’s report, a postmortem examination of the victim showed evidence of acute and remote blunt force injury, natural disease, and extensive resuscitative efforts. Findings of acute injury included bleeding in scalp tissue and below the protective layer of the skull, along with rib fractures and bruising of the extremities and torso.

As detailed in the criminal complaint, video of both men and later Ammesmaki recorded inside the Veterans Supportive Housing building shows Ammesmaki approaching the security desk alone at 12:34 a.m. Ammesmaki then left his apartment and approached the security office at 1:29 a.m. before returning to his apartment at 1:40 a.m. Further footage, according to the police report, shows Ammesmaki leaving his apartment and knocking on the door of another apartment at 1:42 a.m. before returning to his apartment. Officers arrived on the scene at 2:11 a.m. No one else was observed entering or exiting the apartment.

On Monday, Gatton requested that the settlement conference be scheduled in person, versus online. The next hearing date was not available before the Pine Knot News went to press.

Also Monday, Judge Stumme congratulated Ammesmaki — who has been out of jail on bond — on completing treatment. He said it had been helpful and that he is now doing outpatient treatment.

First-degree manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 years or $30,000 or both.

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