Former Lumberjack Days organizer pleads guilty to one of 10 felony charges

Former Stillwater Lumberjack Days organizer David Eckberg pleaded guilty Feb. 14 to one of 10 felony charges against him for writing dishonored checks.

The 62-year-old Stillwater man had faced five counts of theft by check and five counts of issuing a dishonored check. Eckberg pleaded guilty to count 10, which was an aggregate charge issuing a dishonored check that includes all four worthless checks covered by the other counts.

The four bad checks were written to Needham Distributing Co., Hohensteins Inc., Stillwater Blue Line Boosters and Icabod Productions for more than $50,000-worth of goods and services in connection with the Lumberjack Days Festival.

After being rescheduled twice, Eckberg’s trial had been set for March 24.

Because Eckberg doesn’t have any prior felonies on record, the presumed sentence is probation without jail time. Prosecutors left the question of jail time up to Judge Susan Miles.

Eckberg’s lawyer, Eric Thole, intends to ask the judge to sentence the crime as a gross misdemeanor, instead of a felony, but Assistant Washington County Attorney Richard Hodson plans to oppose that request.

“Our position is … there’s no reason to depart from the presumptive sentence,” Hodson said.

Felony probation can last longer and carry more consequences than probation for lower-level offenses.

According to Hodson, the plea deal Eckberg accepted was similar to what the state had offered in January.

“It accomplishes the state’s goal of one, holding Mr. Eckberg accountable, and number two, assuring any conviction covers all four victims of the dishonored checks,” he said. “As the third major goal, it significantly increases the chances that they may collect restitution.”

Thole said the plea bargain allows Eckberg to accomplish one of his two main goals.

“Going into this thing, Dave had two goals,” Thole said. “Number one was to make the checks good, and number two, win the case. Dave’s focusing on goal number one. We hope to have the checks made good by the sentencing date.”

In other words, Eckberg intends to pay the four victims by the time of the sentencing, set for 9 a.m. Thursday, April 17.

Contact Jonathan Young at jonathan.young@ecm-inc.com

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