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Ertl pleads guilty

Receives 21-year suspended sentence

Nicholas Ertl

The man who Fort Dodge Police say drove his vehicle through the garage door at Northern Lights Distributing, 2949 Eighth Ave. S., on Aug. 13, 2020, has pleaded guilty to amended charges and has been given a 21-year suspended prison sentence.

Nicholas J. Ertl, 33, of Fort Dodge, was initially charged with two counts of first-degree burglary, a Class B felony; second-degree criminal mischief, a Class D felony; and eluding, a Class D felony.

After initially pleading not guilty, Ertl entered a plea agreement with the Webster County Attorney’s Office, pleading guilty to the amended charges of second-degree burglary, a Class C felony; and second-degree criminal mischief. He also pleaded guilty to charges from unrelated investigations: possession of meth, an aggravated misdemeanor; possession of a schedule III controlled substance, an aggravated misdemeanor; and impersonating a public official, an aggravated misdemeanor.

In an order dated Tuesday, District Court Judge John Flynn accepted the guilty plea and sentenced Ertl to a total of up to 21 years in prison, suspended, and a total of $5,175 in fines and criminal surcharges. Ertl must also pay $2,523 in restitution to Northern Lights Distributing for the damage to the garage door.

Separately, the adjudicated charges and sentences are:

• 10 years suspended for second-degree burglary

• Five years suspended for second-degree criminal mischief

• Two years suspended for possession of meth

• Two years suspended for possession of a schedule III controlled substance

• Two years suspended for impersonating a public official

For the suspended sentence, Ertl must complete two years of supervised probation. If he violates the conditions of his probation, Ertl’s incarceration sentences are set to be served consecutively, for a total of up to 21 years in prison.

According to criminal complaints, Ertl was searching for a particular person he believed was inside Northern Lights when he was denied entry to the building’s locked office entrance. Witnesses said Ertl then drove through a bay garage door, causing serious damage. According to the complaints, Ertl believed the person he was looking for could give him “access to monetary gains,” and that he planned to remove them by force, if necessary.

Unable to find the person he was looking for, Ertl drove out of the damaged garage door and was later located by police. Ertl led officers on a pursuit at speeds going at least 25 mph over the speed limit, ending at an apartment complex at 1127 Fourth Ave. N.

There, police said Ertl assaulted a woman while forcing his way into her apartment, shoving her out of the doorway as she attempted to prevent him from coming in. Complaints said he was also brandishing a large kitchen knife as he broke in, which initial police reports said was not displayed to Northern Lights employees.

Ertl was eventually taken into custody without incident, where he received his initial charges of robbery, criminal mischief and eluding. He also was charged with a controlled substance violation and possession of a schedule III controlled substance.

Later, in December, Ertl was charged with extortion, perjury and attempting to escape from jail on separate occasions. Criminal complaints say the defendant tried to extort a local business owner for $82,000, writing a note laying out a series of “accusations he then accused (the victim) of being involved in.” At the end of the letter, he threatened to pursue criminal charges against the victim unless she provided $82,000 in cash.

He also tried to escape from the Webster County Jail by covering a camera in his cell, soiling his jail uniform and rushing past the jailer when they opened the door, according to criminal complaints. Ertl was eventually stopped by other jailers and was unable to escape.

Per the plea agreement, the state has dismissed a bevy of charges Ertl was facing, including first-degree burglary, eluding, controlled substance violation, extortion, perjury, escape from custody, three counts of violating a no contact order and third-degree harassment.

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