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Former Marine pleads guilty to aiding in simple assault

WORTHINGTON -- Lotery Jonathan Heath, who said he is a former U.S. Marine, pleaded guilty Monday in Nobles County District Court to aiding and abetting in a simple robbery, a felony charge.

Heath, 25, of Worthington, was charged in the robbery in July, along with two other men.

Heath testified Monday he didn't remember much of the incident because he was extremely intoxicated at the time.

He used an Alford plea, which means he is not prepared to admit the facts in the case, but believes it likely that a jury would find him guilty of the crimes he had been charged with after listening to testimony of witnesses.

The complaint states the victim was riding a bike on Clary Street sometime after midnight when three men tried to take his bicycle and money.

A witness identified Heath as the man she had seen stomping on the victim's chest and shoulder when he was on the ground.

Heath testified he did not remember who was with him the night of the assault -- that he was with one person drinking, then walked down the road with a bunch of people.

"That's all I remember," Heath claimed. "Then we were assaulting him, punching and kicking him."

Judge Jeffrey Flynn, who seemed skeptical that Heath did not remember who he was with, asked how he had joined with the others.

"I just hooked up with some people on the walk back," Heath replied. "I remember hitting some guy, walking away and going home to sleep. Then I woke up and was getting arrested."

Another man charged in the case is scheduled to go on trial later this week, which is likely why Nobles County Assistant Attorney Kim Pehrson was questioning Heath about his companions that evening.

Flynn asked Heath how he planned to stay sober after Heath mentioned his drinking habits.

"I'm hoping to go to treatment, to avoid being around people who do this kind of thing," Heath replied.

One of the roadblocks to getting into treatment was the cost, he admitted. Answering Flynn's question about previous employment, Heath said he had done odd jobs, worked at fast-food restaurants and served as a U.S. Marine from 2006 to 2009. Flynn told Heath to check into his VA benefits to see if it would cover treatment.

"I think I will, sir," Heath stated. "I don't want to be in this situation."

"In 25 years, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say, 'Boy, am I glad I'm in jail,'" Flynn replied.

The other charges against Heath were dismissed as part of the plea agreement, which includes a stay of imposition on a sentence with the condition Heath serve 180 days in jail with credit for time served and spend five years on probation.

Heath has two previous disorderly conduct convictions in Nobles County.