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While pleading guilty in court, SD contractor found to be high on meth, ecstasy

PIERRE, S.D.—A South Dakota contractor's plea to a guilty charge on assault wasn't accepted last week, after a judge thought the man looked high on drugs and then admitted he was on meth and was later found to also have ecstasy in his system.

Jesse Lange, 30, of Rapid City was sent to jail after state Judge Mark Barnett found that he was high on drugs last week while he was pleading guilty in a Pierre court to assaulting an employee last year.

Lange pleaded guilty to felony assault in a Pierre motel room of a man just hired to work for the grain bin-building business he operates with his father.

His attorney, Brad Schreiber, said there was an element of self defense in the incident.

Barnett, looking at the reports, asked about the victim having broken bones in this face.

It appeared the men were drinking and engaging in "mutual combat," Barnett said. "I've definitely seen lots worse."

Hughes County State's Attorney Roxanne Hammond pointed out that Lange has a history of several assault charges.

"You're too quick with your hands," Barnett said.

Schreiber said he had reached a deal with Hammond on Lange's case.

But Barnett, watching Lange, asked him if he would test positive to any illegal drugs at the moment.

Lange seemed unsure, didn't think so.

Barnett asked a court official to get a urine testing kit.

During the wait, Barnett told Lange it was partly in his best interest, because a judge can't accept a guilty plea from someone who is not "clean" of the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Barnett told Lange that he appeared to be high and seemed fidgety. Before the kit was delivered, Lange told the judge he had used meth. A few minutes later, a court services officials said the test showed positive for not only meth but for MDMA, or ecstasy.

Not only could Barnett not take his guilty plea which Lange already had offered, but he had to send him to jail for violating the conditions of his bond for his arrest on the assault charge from last year, Barnett said.

As soon as the drugs were out of Lange's system, another arraignment could be held, Barnett said.

Lange remained in the Hughes County Jail as of late last week.