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Friday, July 22nd 2016
Associated Press North Dakota News
Latest North Dakota news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. CDT

Hearing held on suspension of embattled Ward County sheriff

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — The attorney for embattled Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski is calling for an end to the state's attempt to remove him from office.

Peter Welte (WEHL'-tee) cites what he says are repeated failures to uphold due process.

Kukowski faces misdemeanor charges of refusing to perform a public duty and reckless endangerment in the October 2014 death of 25-year-old jail inmate Dustin Irwin. Kukowski maintains his innocence and is scheduled for trial in August.

In the meantime, Gov. Jack Dalrymple has suspended Kukowski. U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Klein is acting as a special commission in the case and held a hearing Thursday.

Special Prosecutor Seymour Jordan asked Klein to postpone the removal process, possibly until after Kukowski's trial.

Klein says she'll make a recommendation to Dalrymple in the next two weeks.


Man who crashed into business during police chase charged

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Seven charges have been filed against a man who authorities say led Grand Forks police on a chase that ended when he crashed his sport utility vehicle into a business.

Thirty-six-year-old Mark Molina faces three felonies including driving under the influence and reckless endangerment, along with misdemeanor driving, drug and criminal trespass counts. He could face more than 18 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Court documents don't list an attorney for Molina, and a home telephone listing for him couldn't be found.

Police alleged Molina fled from an officer trying to make a traffic stop late Tuesday, and eventually crashed through the wall of a home improvement business. A female passenger in his SUV was taken to a hospital with unknown injuries.


Search for person in river in Grand Forks area unsuccessful

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Authorities in the Grand Forks area searched about 3 ½ hours for a person in the Red River before calling off the operation.

Police say some anglers reported about 1:15 a.m. Friday that they had seen a male enter the river near a bridge and be swept away by the current.

A regional water rescue team and a regional drone team were among the groups who looked for the person.

The search was called off about 4:45 a.m. Police asked anyone with information to contact them. They also issued a reminder that swimming in the river is prohibited.


North Dakota fuel tax revenue drops with economic slowdown

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's Transportation Department says fuel tax collections are tanking with fewer vehicles on the road due to the state's economic slowdown.

Transportation Director Grant Levi told the Legislature's interim Transportation Committee Thursday fuel tax collections are projected to decline this year and remain flat through the next two-year budget cycle.

North Dakota has a 23-cents-a-gallon tax on motor fuel. Levi says each penny of the tax raised $8.7 million for the state last year. He says that's expected to drop by $1.1 million this year.

North Dakota's economic slowdown is due largely to slumping oil prices. But Levi says lower fuel prices are helping stretch state dollars further toward road construction projects.

He says road project bids this year have come in at about $80 million under previous estimates.


North Dakota Democrats release plan for special session

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Democrats have laid out a plan for the special session of the Legislature next month that includes softening cuts to some social services.

Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple last week called a three-day special session of the Legislature beginning Aug. 2 to address a $310 million shortfall to the state treasury due to slumping oil and crop prices. That's on top of a previous $1.1 billion shortfall that was made up in part by Dalrymple ordering cuts to most state agencies.

Part of the Democrats' plan released Thursday would retain 87 percent of prior cuts, and restore about $30 million for social service programs.

The Legislature's Republican majority leaders say they have been working with Dalrymple to craft the GOP's plan. They say a draft is expected next week.


Bond set at $1M for man charged in Fargo woman's death

(Information from: WDAY-TV, http://wday.com)

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Bond has been set at $1 million for a man charged with murder in the death of a woman whose body was discovered in a Fargo town house in mid-May.

WDAY-TV reports that 22-year-old Landon Lauwagie (loo-WAG'-ee) has made his first court appearance. He's charged with murder and gross sexual imposition in the death of 40-year-old Cory Terlecky on or about May 14.

Lauwagie, of Ponsford, Minnesota, is now being held at the Cass County Jail. He had been custody at a southern Minnesota jail since he was arrested on a probation violation days after the alleged murder.

Authorities say in court documents that Lauwagie sexually assaulted Terlecky and that she died of asphyxiation.

Lauwagie's court record does not list an attorney who could comment on his behalf.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, July 21st 2016
Associated Press North Dakota News
Latest North Dakota news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. CDT

Maxbass man gets 30 years for repeatedly raping child

BOTTINEAU, N.D. (AP) — A Maxbass man has been sentenced to serve 30 years in prison for repeatedly raping a girl when she was as young as 12.

Judge Michael Sturdevant sentenced 35-year-old Adam Ray on Wednesday, noting that Ray could have faced dozens of charges in the case.

Ray in April pleaded guilty to a single felony count of continuous sexual abuse of a minor. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.

Ray also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of corruption of a minor. He was given a five-year sentence to be served at the same time as his 30-year term.


Rectangular outline bumps warrior from North Dakota signage

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The profile of a famous Sioux warrior that has adorned North Dakota's highway signs for nearly a century is quietly being replaced by a rectangle.

One descendant of Marcellus Red Tomahawk said it "tears my heart out" that officials decided to swap out the markers featuring his great-great-grandfather with versions displaying the nondescript North Dakota outline.

The department says the change is intended to pay tribute to the upcoming 100th birthday of the state's transportation agency and to provide "uniformity" with other states' signage.

Marcellus Red Tomahawk was involved in the killing of Sitting Bull in 1890 and was the first chairman of the Standing Rock Reservation.

The state adopted Red Tomahawk's profile signs in 1923. The agency had no public hearings but consulted with some of Red Tomahawk's descendants.


Minnesota man charged in alleged Bakken RV park fraud

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Federal prosecutors allege a Minnesota man stole more than $2 million from investors hoping to make money off North Dakota's oil boom.

Fifty-year-old Ronald David Johnson of Corcoran is charged with five counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

According to court documents, Johnson came up with an investment idea to house oil workers in the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana. The idea would allow oil workers to park their recreational vehicles in warehouses and share laundry and vending machines.

The indictment alleges Johnson fraudulently solicited $2.1 million from four investors. Instead of using the money for RV parks, Johnson allegedly used more than $1.8 million to fund his cattle farm, take vacations and purchase a 17-acre island.

Defense attorney James Becker had no comment Wednesday.


Trial rescheduled for former surgeon accused of child porn

(Information from: Minot Daily News, http://www.minotdailynews.com)

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Trial for a former Minot neurosurgeon facing federal child pornography charges has been rescheduled to give his attorney more time to prepare.

The Minot Daily News reports that 55-year-old Marc Eichler is to stand trial beginning Oct. 4 in U.S. District Court in Bismarck, rather than Aug. 1.

Eichler is accused of coercing two minors into becoming victims of child pornography. He has pleaded not guilty to seven counts, including producing and receiving child porn.

Eichler was formerly employed by Trinity Health in Minot. He's free on bond but was recently ordered to surrender his passport.



North Dakota Dems to announce special session budget plan

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Democrats are holding a press conference in Fargo to lay out their plan and goals for the special session of the Legislature next month.

The news conference is slated at the Fargo Depot at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple last week called a special session of the Legislature to address a $310 million shortfall to the state treasury due to slumping oil and crop prices.

Republicans hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, of Grand Forks, says Democrats want to work with Republicans to reach a consensus on how the budget shortfall should be addressed before the Legislature returns for the three-day session beginning Aug. 2.


Central US bracing for 'heat dome;' heat indexes to top 100

CHICAGO (AP) — High temperatures and humidity will bake much of the central U.S. this week, sending heat indexes soaring as high as 115 degrees in some places for the first time this year.

The National Weather Service says the high pressure system, sometimes called a "heat dome," will push conditions to their hottest point this summer, though temperatures will stay short of records. Authorities from Minnesota to Louisiana are warning people to take precautions and check on the elderly and other vulnerable neighbors and relatives.

Officials blamed heat for the death last week of an elderly woman in St. Louis County, Missouri. In Illinois, a 4-year-old girl was hospitalized Tuesday after being found unresponsive in a hot vehicle in a northwest Chicago suburb. Details on her condition have not been released.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.