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Peterson to announce reelection plans and other news briefs from around the region

News briefs from Forum News Service and the St.Paul Pioneer Press:

North Dakota

Call center set up on data breach

BISMARCK -- The North Dakota University System is operating a call center to answer questions  about a computer system server breach in February that put personal information for thousands of people at risk.

AllClear ID will be operating the center, which can be reached at  (855) 711-5990 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, the University System said Friday. The center is also taking calls today until 8 p.m. AllClear will also provide free identity protection services to those affected for the next year.

The server contained the personal information, including Social Security numbers, of more than 290,000 current and former students and about 780 faculty and staff. However, the University System said it has found no evidence that any personal information was accessed, copied, transmitted or printed.

Man killed in Fargo likely involved in drug-related dispute

FARGO – Police believe a 26-year-old man found dead near a Fargo grocery store early Friday was killed in a dispute suspected to be drug-related.

Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said the man, who has been identified but isn’t being publicly named because his family hasn’t been notified, appears to have been killed by an assault with a sharp or edged weapon.

The victim was found after Fargo police received a call about a disturbance at the store at 12:20 a.m.

A 911 caller described what appeared to be a crash involving two vehicles, which quickly evolved into a disturbance involving the vehicles’ occupants.

When officers arrived, they found one vehicle matching the description in the 911 call in the grocery store parking lot with its tires slashed, Ternes said. No one was in the vehicle.

A second vehicle believed to be involved in the initial disturbance was found just east of the grocery store. Two men in that car were detained for questioning, Ternes said.

Officers found the dead man about 100 yards east of the second vehicle.

Man dies in crash north of Williston

WILLISTON, N.D. -- A 23-year-old man died Thursday after his car collided with a tractor-trailer north of Williston, police said Friday.

The crash occurred about 9 p.m. Thursday on U.S. Highways 2 and 85 north of Williston, said Lt. Kenneth Owens of the Williston Police Department.

A Toyota Corolla driven by the 23-year-old was heading north while a semi-truck driven by James Pegelow, 61, of North Branch, Minn., was heading south and making a left turn, Owens said.

The Toyota struck the truck in the northbound lane of traffic, killing the driver of the car, Owens said. The man was not wearing a seatbelt, Owens said.

The name of the driver is being withheld pending notification of family.

Officers redirected traffic, which was backed up for about an hour, Owens said.

N.D. agrees to dismissal of abortion lawsuit

BISMARCK – A lawsuit challenging a law requiring doctors who perform abortions in North Dakota to have admitting privileges at a local hospital has been dismissed, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Friday morning.

The Red River Women’s Clinic here, the state’s only abortion clinic, filed a lawsuit challenging the 2013 law, arguing it violated the state’s constitution.

The clinic also argued that its doctors would be unable to comply with the law by getting admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Sanford Health last month acknowledged that it had granted admitting privileges to doctors for the clinic under its longstanding “open privileges” policy at its hospital.

Physicians, however, do not have privileges to perform abortions at Sanford.

“Because the grounds for suing the state no longer exist, that case is now moot,” Stenehjem’s statement said.

The state and Red River Women’s Clinic have an agreement requiring the clinic’s doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital as long as the law remains in effect.

The agreement also requires any additional physician who performs abortions at the clinic in the future to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Four new Highway Patrol troopers headed to Oil Patch

BISMARCK -- The North Dakota Highway Patrol is sending four new troopers to the state’s booming oil and gas region and expects to graduate an additional 12 troopers by early June.

The four troopers who have graduated will be stationed in Dickinson, Minot, New Town and Parshall, Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced Friday.

Of the dozen troopers expected to graduate by early June, six will be assigned to the Williston area, two will work from Killdeer and the other four will be assigned to Dickinson, Rugby, Velva and Watford City.

The 2013 Legislature appropriated $3.8 million to put 15 additional troopers on the roads, primarily in western North Dakota, Dalrymple noted in a news release.

Highway Patrol Col. Jim Prochniak said the troopers will provide relief for those already working in the area, while also supporting local law enforcement agencies and enhancing the patrol’s visibility.

A graduation ceremony for all of the new troopers is set for July 25 at Bismarck State College.

Judge agrees to toss one menacing conviction against white separatist

CARSON, N.D. – A judge has granted a request by Grant County State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz to throw out one of seven convictions against a white separatist who pleaded guilty to menacing people last fall in Leith.

District Judge Donald Jorgensen on Friday signed the order amending the criminal judgment against Kynan Dutton, 29, who pleaded guilty in January to five counts of menacing and two counts of disorderly conduct.

The tossed conviction was related to alleged victim Gregory Bruce of New Leipzig. It was the same charge Schwarz had dismissed against white supremacist Craig Cobb.

Schwarz claims Bruce made contradictory statements about whether he feared that Cobb was going to hurt him. Bruce has said the comment in question was taken out of context.

Schwarz has said the amended criminal judgment won’t affect Dutton’s convictions on the other six counts or his terms of probation.

Cobb, 62, recently entered guilty pleas to one count of felony terrorizing and five counts of misdemeanor menacing as part of a plea agreement that calls for him to serve no additional jail time and four years of supervised probation. But the judge deferred acceptance of the plea deal and ordered a presentence investigation.

Man found dead on railroad tracks in Fargo

FARGO – A 26-year-old Fargo man was found dead on the train tracks near the University Drive underpass Friday afternoon.

Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said police were contacted by a representative of BNSF Railway about 4:20 p.m. about a possible body on the tracks.

When police arrived, they found the man, whose name has not been released, on the eastbound track. There is no railroad crossing near that point in the tracks.

Though Vettel said police were still investigating the time of death, he suspects there was “another reason” the man was on the tracks at the time.

“There are a number of reasons why he’d be there,” Vettel said. “It certainly isn’t an area where people typically pass over just to cross on the railroad tracks, so chances are there was another ulterior motive for him to be there at the time of the incident.”

It has not yet been determined whether drugs or alcohol were involved.


Peterson to announce Monday whether he’ll seek re-election

MOORHEAD, Minn. – Longtime U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson will be in Moorhead on Monday to announce his plans for the coming election.

Peterson, a Democrat representing Minnesota’s 7th District, which includes Moorhead and Clay County, will speak at the Moorhead Center Mall atrium at 10 a.m. Monday, according to a news release.

Peterson has served 24 years in the House and has thus far not indicated whether he will seek his 13th term in November.

The release said Peterson would speak about a “number of issues,” including his plans for this year’s election, but it did not specify Peterson’s plans.

Republican Torrey Westrom, a state senator from Elbow Lake, has announced his plans to run for the U.S. House seat.

Minnesotans sue cities, counties over ticket diversion classes

WABASHA, Minn. -- A group of nine Minnesota residents filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday requesting that 36 cities and counties return fees for traffic-ticket diversion programs.

The suit, filed in Wabasha County District Court, follows a court ruling in January that declared a safe-driving class in Wabasha County illegal because the sheriff’s office kept program revenue without sharing any with the state, which takes a portion of all traffic fines.

Now citizens want cities and counties to return all of the collected fees, estimated by the state auditor at around $2 million since 2010.

Devised as an alternative to paying certain traffic tickets, the programs offer local driving classes for a fee of $75 to $125. Completing the class meant the ticket would not go onto attendees’ records or affect insurance premiums.

The January ruling prompted governments to close similar classes statewide while the issue gets worked out in the Legislature.

The class action also names as a plaintiff the Association for Government Accountability, a watchdog group that was part of the original suit against Wabasha County.

Attorney Erick Kaardal, who is representing the plaintiffs, could not be reached Friday for comment.

Judge hears motion to dismiss federal driver’s protection suit

MINNEAPOLIS -- A U.S. District Court judge oversaw a hearing Friday in Minneapolis for dismissal of a federal lawsuit against dozens of Minnesota cities, counties and government officials alleged to have violated the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.

Filed by a Wabasha County citizens group in September, the suit claims government officials across the state illegally accessed protected driver’s license data of 18 political activists more than 600 times to obtain confidential information, according to a news release from the plaintiff’s attorney, Erick Kaardal.

Each DPPA violation is subject to a $2,500 damage award. There was no immediate decision.


St. Paul woman who led ID theft ring gets 4½ years

ST. PAUL -- A former state Department of Labor and Industry worker was sentenced Friday to 4½ years in prison for her role in a broad identity-theft ring.

Roxanne Kay DeFlorin was the last of four defendants sentenced in Ramsey County District Court in the scheme, which included DeFlorin's theft of identities from her job.

Judge Patrick Diamond ordered her to pay restitution of more than $300,000.

DeFlorin, 50, of St. Paul, was convicted Jan. 22 of identity theft after she represented herself at trial. A jury acquitted her of two counts of possessing a short-barreled shotgun.

Ramsey County prosecutor John Ristad told jurors at trial that DeFlorin was the center of an operation that involved three other women and hundreds of stolen identities. DeFlorin obtained names and Social Security numbers from a Public Employees Retirement Association of Minnesota database and a list from the Department of Labor and Industry.

Co-defendants Kristin Renee Warren, 40, and Andrea Leigh Gunderson, 30, were sentenced to 6½  years in prison. Shauntell Rose Burg, 32, was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison.

The crimes occurred in the summer of 2012. -- St. Paul Pioneer Press

FedEx delivery driver injured in collision with train

GRANITE FALLS, Minn. -- A 46-year-old man was airlifted to a Minneapolis hospital after his truck collided with a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train around 2 p.m. Friday south of Granite Falls.

The Yellow Medicine County Sheriff’s Department said the man’s condition was unknown. His identity was being withheld pending notification of family.

The injured man was driving a FedEx delivery truck when the collision occurred at the intersection with Yellow Medicine County Road 39.

The conductor and engineer were the only people on the train. Both were uninjured.

The driver of the truck was transported by ambulance to Granite Falls Hospital and subsequently airlifted by North Ambulance to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Assisting at the scene were the Granite Falls police, fire and ambulance, the Minnesota State Patrol and Department of Natural Resources.

South Dakota

S.D. man gets 40 years for raping child during video chat

MITCHELL, S.D. -- A Mitchell man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for raping a young child while video chatting online.

Joshua Bullis, 31, appeared Friday in Davison County Court. Judge Tim Bjorkman sentenced Bullis to 70 years in prison but suspended 30 years.

"My purpose in that sentence is to try to ensure that you spend the rest of your life either in custody or on parole supervision," Bjorkman told Bullis during the hearing.

Bullis will first be eligible for parole in December 2033, according to Bjorkman.

Bullis pleaded guilty to first-degree rape in January for sexually abusing a young child while video chatting on the Internet between Aug. 14 and Nov. 5 at his Mitchell home. In exchange for Bullis' guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss other charges of sexual contact with a child younger than 16 and manufacturing child pornography.

In an interview with police, Bullis admitted engaging in at least seven video chat sessions on the Internet involving him and a young child, according to court documents. The videos were streamed live and viewed by other Internet users.

Bullis also told police he engaged in at least one sexual act with the child, court documents say.

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