PIERRE, S.D. – (DRG News) A Fort Pierre man who was charged with Attempted First Degree Murder–for a case in which a gun was discharged toward another person after a fight–entered a guilty plea in a Pierre courtroom yesterday. 39-year-old Ronald Lee Berens, Jr. faced six charges after authorities say he shot a rifle at his girlfriend on April 29. Berens was arrested after officials were told shots had been fired both inside and out of an apartment building on East Wandel Avenue.
Stanley County States Attorney Tom P. Maher said in court Tuesday that Berens had been drinking and argued with his girlfriend. The verbal argument eventually erupted into violence. Maher says Berens pushed the woman into a closet and when she fled, he shot at her inside the apartment and then pursued her as she ran outside. Berens fired a second shot which hit a residence on Scotty Philip Avenue. Officials could not determine where the third shot went. The woman was not injured.
As part of a plea agreement, Berens admitted his guilt to Aggravated Assault-Domestic Violence. He also pled guilty to having been previously been convicted of a felony–DUI 3rd–in 2009. His admission to being a habitual offender means he could face an enhanced penalty of up to 25 years in prison, a $50,000 fine or both.
Maher said the victim played a role in helping determine a plea agreement in the case.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Patricia DeVaney was asked to rule on whether the victim in the crime could visit Berens in jail, talk to him on the phone or write him letters. Maher told the court he would not support that and that the crime was a classic domestic violence case. Berens’ lawyer said he didn’t think a threat toward the woman existed anymore. DeVaney agreed with Maher and kept a “no contact” order in place. Maher said although the couple is in a relationship, it’s too soon after the crime occurred for the no contact requirement to be lifted.
Berens will be sentenced on June 26 in Stanley County.
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