Guilty plea in fatal punch at New Hope bar

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The second defendant in an assault at a bar that left one man dead pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

Daniele Wright, 27, pleaded guilty to manslaughter as a result of a misdemeanor assault Tuesday morning and will be sentenced Dec. 7. He is expected to receive 74 months in prison. He admitted in court that he had been drinking heavily the night he punched 36-year-old John Hillstrom of Crystal outside the Outtakes Bar and Grill in New Hope. He acknowledged the drinking did not excuse his actions. He originally was charged with second-degree unintentional murder.

Hillstrom was at the bar with his friends on the night of June 13, 2014. Shortly after 1 a.m. on the 14th, words were exchanged between Hillstrom, Gantt and Wright outside the bar. The bartender told Hillstrom to go back in the bar to allow the other two men to leave, according to the criminal complaint.

However, Gantt and Wright came back to where Hillstrom was standing with the bartender. Gantt punched Hillstrom in the face, knocking him down. Dazed, Hillstrom got back on his feet. Wright then punched him, sending Hillstrom to the pavement, where he hit his head, according to the complaint and Wright’s admissions in court.
On Nov. 30, Hillstrom died from his head injury.

Gantt was charged with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder. His trial, before Hennepin County District Court Judge Steven Lange in late August, resulted in a finding of guilty to misdemeanor assault and a sentence of probation and 90 days in the workhouse.

Gantt was identified early in the investigation. However, it took several months before police were able to learn Wright’s identity and then locate him, because he lived outside of Minnesota.