RAPID CITY, S.D. — A Washington state man who was pulled over in South Dakota with about 40 pounds of marijuana (18 kilograms) in the car beat the state trooper who stopped him to within inches of his life, a prosecutor said at the outset of the man’s attempted murder trial.
Donald Willingham’s trial started Tuesday in Pennington County, the Rapid City Journal reported . The 35-year-old Renton, Washington, man faces attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and drug charges stemming from the October 2015 traffic stop on Interstate 90 east of Rapid City.
Prosecutor Mark Vargo told jurors that Willingham and three friends were driving from Seattle to Chicago with a large amount of the drug and $30,000 in cash in the car when Trooper Zachary Bader pulled them over for speeding and asked to search the vehicle because he smelled marijuana. He said Willingham severely beat Bader before he and his friends drove off, leaving the trooper lying along the side of the highway and “fighting for his life.”
Defense attorney Dennis Doherty told jurors to keep an open mind and not form an opinion until they’ve heard all the testimony.
Last year, Willingham’s friends pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and being an accessory to a crime. They agreed to testify against Willingham as part of their plea deals. They’re expected to be sentenced this week.
The attempted murder and assault charges against Willingham each carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com