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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Walleye poaching arrests make case largest in 22 years

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REGIONAL BRIEFS: Walleye poaching arrests make case largest in 22 years
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Credit: Forum News Service

North Dakota

Guilty pleas in pimping case

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- With potential jurors waiting in the next room, two men slated for trial on a human trafficking charge that could have put them in prison for life pleaded guilty at the last minute Monday morning to a lesser charge in a Grand Forks court.

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Travis Johnson and Joshua Harry were charged in August in state district court with trafficking a 17-year-old girl to several men in Grand Forks in early 2011. If convicted of the Class AA felony, they would have faced up to life in prison without parole in what would have been the first trial under the 2009 law.

State District Judge Sonja Clapp accepted a guilty plea by Harry, 27, to a lesser felony of promoting prostitution. Prosecutors told Clapp they were OK with amending the charge down to a Class C felony with a top penalty of five years if Harry pleaded guilty, which he did.

Johnson, 30, then pleaded guilty to a similar charge.

Meredith Larson, assistant state's attorney for Grand Forks County, told Clapp she would dismiss the human trafficking charge against Johnson if he pleaded guilty to a second charge of corruption of a minor, a Class C felony. Johnson admitted he had sex himself with the girl in early 2011 as a way of introducing her to prostitution.

(GFH)

Spirit Lake chairman office disputed

FORT TOTTEN, N.D. -- Leander (Russ) McDonald was sworn in as chairman of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe on Monday in a traditional ceremony conducted by elders and others opposed to Chairman Roger Yankton Sr., but another tribal official said Yankton remained in charge and the attempted takeover was illegal.

"They have to do it the right way," through circulation of a petition, said Darren Walking Eagle, the tribe's chief administrative officer and second in command to the chairman.

At an emergency general assembly Sunday, a vote to seek Yankton's removal as chairman was adopted by a vote of 114-3.

Cheryl Good Iron, who has joined in the effort to oust Yankton, said the traditional swearing in ceremony for McDonald was conducted in the tribe's administrative building by Peter Belgarde, a former tribal chairman and judge.

Yankton did not respond to repeated requests for comment. He has been unavailable since opponents organized a series of meetings last week to challenge his leadership.

(GFH)

Long Prairie semi driver to plead guilty

FARGO - A Long Prairie, Minn., man has agreed to change his plea in Cass County District Court to guilty in connection with a fatal collision between the semi he was driving and a motorcycle.

James Toner, 56, was driving a semi on June 4 in south Fargo when a motorcycle driven by 29-year-old Jason Viestenz collided with him. Viestenz was killed, and his 10-year-old son Elijah, who was riding with him, suffered minor injuries. Elijah was wearing a helmet.

Toner was charged with Class B felony manslaughter and Class A misdemeanor reckless driving in the case.

Prosecutor Cherie Clark said she cannot comment on the deal other than to confirm Toner is set for a change of plea. That hearing is scheduled for May 13.

(FF)

Storm-affected tax filers catch a break

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Because of inconveniences stemming from last weekend's winter storm -- which dumped well over a foot of snow in some spots-- the Internal Revenue Service announced it will give a break f to anyone unable to file their taxes by Monday's deadline.

North Dakota Tax Commissioner Cory Fong said, through a statement issued by his office Monday, the state will give taxpayers who haven't yet filed some extra time.

IRS spokeswoman Karen Connelly said the relief would apply to the IRS' late-filing penalty, normally 5 percent per month, and the late-payment penalty, normally one-half percent per month.

Late-filers will qualify for the penalty relief as long as they address their filing or payment responsibilities "within a reasonable time" after issues relating to the storm have been resolved.

"If you don't file your taxes and you don't file an extension, you'll receive a penalty notice from the IRS," Connelly said. "If that happens ... you'll need to contact us and let us know that you were impacted by the storm and weren't able to file properly on time."

(DP)

Minnesota

Walleye poaching arrests make case largest in 22 years

Authorities in Minnesota are bringing criminal charges against more than 20 people in the largest case of commercialized poaching of fish in the state in 20 years.

Twenty-one suspects are facing up to 35 misdemeanor and six gross misdemeanor charges in six counties in northern Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced Monday. Total state fines are expected in the tens of thousands of dollars. Cases have been presented to state county attorneys for prosecution; some individuals have been charged or have already paid fines.

The charges follow a three-year special investigation into the illegal sale and dumping of thousands of game fish in north-central and northwestern Minnesota. The charges involve both illegal purchases and sales of the game fish, primarily walleye, taken from some of Minnesota's most popular fishing lakes, including Cass, Leech, Red and Winnibigoshish lakes on the Red Lake or Leech Lake Indian reservations.

(DNT)

Minnesota agency fines American Crystal Sugar

MOORHEAD - The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has completed 51 enforcement cases in the first quarter of 2013, including two against American Crystal Sugar locations.

The locations in Moorhead and Crookston were fined a total of $10,500 for air quality violations.

A complete list of enforcement actions can be found at www.pca.state.mn.us.

(FF)

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