A Cache Valley man initially accused of attempting to kill a man with a hatchet pleaded guilty to reduced charges in 1st District Court on Wednesday.
Ethan Drake Mortensen, 20, pleaded guilty to a single count of second-degree aggravated assault amended from a first-degree charge of attempted murder. Three additional misdemeanors were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Charges were filed against Mortensen in July after authorities alleged Mortensen had threatened the victim and caused serious bodily injury with handheld weapons.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed with the court, a witness at the scene told Smithfield Police officers Mortensen and the alleged victim had been arguing in the garage of a Smithfield home.
According to the affidavit, the dispute was rooted in Mortensen’s consumption of alcohol. During the argument Mortensen took a hatchet and knife from a backpack and began screaming, police wrote. When the victim tried to calm Mortensen, police wrote he turned on the man and threatened to kill him.
According to Cache County prosecutors, Mortensen began swinging the hatchet, and the alleged victim received a defense wound to the hand. The witness told police that he proceeded to tackle Mortensen in order to save the victim.
During the preliminary hearing in the case, the witness testified that Mortensen attempted to stab him while being held on the ground during the scuffle. Mortensen vehemently denied the allegation during the hearing.
According to documents filed with the court, defense counsel for Mortensen were in the process of arguing for Mortensen’s release from jail pending trial in the matter and stated the witness in the case had changed his story from what he originally told police.
“The witness admitted at the preliminary hearing that the Defendant was several feet away from the alleged victim; that the Defendant did not approach the alleged victim; that the alleged victim was seated in a lawn chair; and that while the Defendant held a hatchet in his hand, the hatchet remained at about waist level and was not raised as if preparing to strike. Finally, the witness testified that he never heard the Defendant threaten the alleged victim,” the document states.
Defense counsel wrote Mortensen had been incarcerated for over six months without access to a trial and would likely schedule one until late summer or early fall of 2021.
Mortensen is currently being held in the Cache County Jail. He is set to be sentenced on March 24.