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James F. Battin Federal Courthouse

James F. Battin Federal Courthouse

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

A Lodge Grass man admitted federal assault charges on Thursday after injuring a passenger in a drunken driving crash last year.

Ira Lefthand Jr., 42, pleaded guilty to assault resulting in serious injury during a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan in Billings. There was no plea agreement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Sullivan said the crash happened on April 24 along Interstate 90 on the Crow Reservation.

Lefthand had been drinking beer at a bar in Hardin when he left in his 2000 Chevy Impala with the victim, D.S., who was riding in the front passenger seat, Sullivan said. D.S. had seen Lefthand drink “a lot of beers” and knew Lefthand was “very drunk,” he said.

Lefthand was swerving as he drove and D.S., who had had two beers, asked if he could drive, but Lefthand refused, he said.

Lefthand was driving at speeds of 80 to 90 mph and it was raining heavily that night, Sullivan said.

The driver of a 2004 GMC Yukon with five passengers had pulled off the road near mile marker 504.5 because of low visibility in the rain, Sullivan said.

Lefthand lost control of his car, left the roadway and rear-ended the Yukon, causing severe front-end damage to his own vehicle and the vehicle’s air bag to deploy, he said. Emergency responders had to cut the driver’s side door to get Lefthand out.

D.S. suffered serious injuries, including multiple facial and rib fractures, a broken left elbow and a collapsed lung that required a chest tube to drain more than 500 ml of blood from his lungs, he said.

A test of Lefthand’s blood showed it was positive for Fentanyl with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.134 percent. The legal limit is 0.08 percent.

Lefthand disputed that D.S. had only two beers, saying he had numerous beers.

Lefthand faces a maximum 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Cavan said he would recommend that U.S. District Judge Susan Watters accept Lefthand’s plea and continued Lefthand’s release. Watters will set a sentencing date.



Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.