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Rushmore man pleads not guilty in attempted murder case

WORTHINGTON -- After posting a $50,000 bond back in October, Ngeh Ngeh, 26, of Rushmore, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to attempted murder and assault charges.

Ngeh is charged with first-degree attempted murder-premeditated, two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and third-degree assault with substantial bodily harm.

According to Judge Gordon Moore, a motion to dismiss filed earlier in the case was denied by Judge George Harrelson.

The complaint states Ngeh allegedly hit another man with a baseball bat repeatedly, inflicting substantial bodily harm. Authorities were contacted Oct. 7, 2011, to investigate a reported assault. The alleged victim was found spitting up blood and cradling a swollen hand.

The man was later diagnosed with a hematoma on his forearm, a broken hand and a pulmonary contusion to his lung.

The victim identified his assailant as a man who worked with him at JBS Swift.

He said the man followed him home in a small gray car as he walked home, then got out of the car with a stick and struck him repeatedly.

He said he tried to cover himself, and thought the man was trying to kill him. He thought the man might be jealous of him because of his girlfriend.

The assault ended, he said, when someone else pulled the man away from him.

Initially the victim was unaware of the assailant's name, but said he could identify him. After looking through photos at the Human Resources office at JBS, Ngeh was identified. An officer located a small gray car in the parking lot at the plant that matched the plate numbers of a car Ngeh had been arrested in a month earlier for speeding. In the vehicle, a small aluminum bat was found. As the officer waited beside the car for a search warrant, a man approached and said the car belonged to a friend. The witness said he had ridden home with the car's owner and Ngeh the night of the attack, and that Ngeh had gotten out of the car and chased the victim. He was the one who had pulled Ngeh off the victim, the witness said.

Ngeh was located at the plant Oct. 10, 2011, and brought to the Nobles County Jail. Ngeh said the day before the incident, the victim had tried to punch him, so the next day Ngeh went to ask him why. He said he hadn't brought a bat with him, but found it on the ground after the victim pushed him down. He said he swung it at the victim to teach him a lesson, but only hit his finger.

Moore, who was sworn in as a judge March 1, informed Ngeh he had the right to ask that another judge preside over the case, as Moore was the Nobles County Attorney at the time the charges were filed.

"My assistant Kathy Kusz was responsible for prosecuting the case and I have very little information regarding your case, but I was aware of it" Moore explained. "I have not formed an opinion, but if you could like another judge I will recuse myself and not hold any hard feelings against you."

Kusz is currently the Nobles County Attorney.

After pleading not guilty to all four felony charges, Ngeh conferred briefly with his attorney, then stated through an interpreter that he did not wish to have a new judge preside over the case.

Public defender Louis Kuchera said he thought the case would need four days for trial, because some of his witnesses would also need interpreters.