Man pleads guilty to assault for fight that caused another man’s death in 2022

A man accused of assaulting another man who died shortly afterward in 2022 took a plea deal on Friday.

Brandon Paul Watson, 44, pleaded guilty to third-degree assault as part of a plea deal that dropped a manslaughter charge.

The criminal complaint states that an Anoka County detective responded to a report of an assault and an unconscious man at a home on Jan. 30, 2022.

The unconscious man, Joseph Darrell Skogen, died shortly after the incident.

Court documents show Watson wasn’t charged until December of 2022, nearly 11 months after Skogen died.

The detective spoke to a witness who said she was in her bedroom when she heard a loud banging coming from the downstairs stairwell.

The witness said she then saw Watson standing at the bottom of the stairwell holding “an unidentified object in his hand,” according to the complaint.

The witness also reported seeing Skogen sitting at the top of the stairwell covered in blood with head and face injuries.

The complaint states that the witness said Skogen was a guest at their home and that Watson “arrived uninvited.” Both Watson and Skogen began to fight immediately and the witness said Watson used the unknown object to injure Skogen.

Skogen then lost consciousness and was pronounced dead shortly after the fight. An amended criminal complaint shows that Skogen died from blunt force injuries “in addition to pre-existing medical conditions.”

Court documents do not specify what those pre-existing medical conditions were, but a Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy report lists the death as a homicide caused by the “Combined effects of methamphetamine and physical altercation.” No other significant conditions were listed.

Skogen’s injuries included a periorbital ecchymosis of the right eye and a laceration with underlying hematoma of the occipital skull and scalp, which resulted in “temporary but substantial disfigurement,” according to the complaint.

Watson’s sentencing date is set for the afternoon of April 4.

The plea deal shows he is expected to be sentenced to 24 months in prison, which will run concurrent to a case in Wright County. Court documents show he has 141 days credit for confinement there.

Watson is currently in custody at the Wright County jail as of Monday, Jan. 23, according to the Wright County Jail roster. His charges there include fleeing police in a motor vehicle, first-degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and third-degree assault.

Watson’s previous convictions include multiple domestic assaults, domestic abuse, multiple violations of no-contact orders, issuing a dishonored check and disorderly conduct.

The Anoka County Attorney’s Office shared the following statement in response to the plea deal:

On December 12, 2022, the Anoka County Attorney’s Office charged the defendant in this case, Brandon Paul Watson, with one count of felony Assault in the 3rd Degree. The decision not to charge Watson initially with a higher severity level crime was based upon information available to this office at the time.  Our office insisted on a plea to the felony assault charge and a prison sentence within the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines.

As our office prepared for trial this year, the assigned prosecutors amended the complaint to add an additional count of Manslaughter in the 1st Degree.  This amendment would provide jurors with a fair opportunity at trial to assess whether all the evidence the State had gathered, including information from the medical examiner, could also prove a Manslaughter charge beyond any reasonable doubt.  Prior to filing the amended complaint, all efforts were made to notify the immediate family of the victim. The previously extended offer was kept open for a finite period of time.  Within that time, the Defendant agreed to plead guilty to the 3rd Degree Assault and serve a term in prison consistent with the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. The immediate family members who provided input to our office were understanding of this potential resolution.

Today, the defendant accepted responsibility and pled guilty to the original felony charge in this case.  The Court set the matter for sentencing on April 4, 2024, at 3:00 PM and ordered Anoka County Probation to conduct a pre-sentence investigation.  Out of respect for the process, this office will reserve further comment on this case until after the sentencing hearing.