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Drug ring member beaten by fellow inmate in Grand Forks jail

The East Grand Forks man in jail for giving a friend a fatal dose of synthetic drugs was beaten up by a fellow inmate for talking with authorities, according to a federal prosecutor Thursday.

Brandon Lee Turner, 22, a convicted sex offender, faces a felony charge of retaliating against a witness in the alleged beating, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Shasky. The defendant, arraigned Thursday in federal court in Fargo, pleaded not guilty.

The maximum sentence for retaliation against a witness is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Turner is represented by federal public defender Chris Lancaster.

The victim was Adam Budge, 19, who admitted last month in federal court that he gave a drug-laced chocolate bar to Elijah Stai, 17, that led to Stai's death in June.

Budge took a plea deal with prosecutors and discussed his involvement in a Grand Forks drug conspiracy that supplied the synthetic drugs.

Nine others have been charged in the conspiracy that led to two deaths, including that of Stai and Christian Bjerk, 18, in Grand Forks. Six, including Budge, have accepted plea deals.

It's not clear what role Turner had, if any, in the conspiracy, based on what Shasky said.

But the federal grand jury that indicted Turner alleged he "caused bodily harm to (Budge) with the intent to retaliate against (Budge) for any truthful information provided to a law enforcement officer relating to the commission or possible commission of a federal drug trafficking offense."

Budge and Turner were in the Grand Forks jail when the alleged beating took place.

Turner was transferred to the state prison in Bismarck soon after the alleged beating. He was sentenced in June to 30 months in prison for failing to register as a sex offender, a charge brought against him in 2009.

Budge also has been transferred to another jail in the region, still in federal custody while he awaits sentencing set for later this year.

Judge Karen Klein set Turner's trial for Dec. 18, Shasky said.