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Archie Ingersoll, Published January 11 2009

Complaint: Fargo woman, 20, drank with law officers in Roseau County

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – A 20-year-old Fargo woman says she drank a beer at a Roseau County, Minn., house party attended by officers from multiple agencies but maintains they did not know she was underage and that she got the beer from her parents’ fridge.

“(The officers) would never ever – from what I know of them – they would never distribute to minors,” Emily Sjaaheim said. “That’s why I think this whole thing is getting blown out of proportion.”

Allen Thompson of Badger, Minn., made the allegations about officers drinking with minors at the party hosted by a deputy that led to an investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The agency is close to completing its inquiry, the results of which will be given to the county attorney’s office to determine if charges will be filed, according to a BCA spokeswoman.

Thompson, 42, filed a complaint with the county last week. He allowed authorities to copy printouts of photographs taken at the party, including one that shows Sjaaheim holding what appears to be a longneck, brown glass bottle.

That photo posted on her Facebook site, Sjaaheim acknowledged, shows her holding the Michelob AmberBock she drank. But she said it was the only drink she had that night and that she drove home at least an hour after finishing it.

Another photo shows an on-duty Warroad officer in uniform next to Sjaaheim, but she said he did not drink and was there for only about 10 minutes. Thompson said he first saw the photos through his daughter’s Facebook account.

“The only problem I got is double standards in Roseau County. They’ve been arresting minors, and then they’re doing this stuff themselves,” he said. “I just want to make sure they’re doing a full investigation and that this stuff isn’t swept under the rug.”

Thompson said he has no bone to pick with law enforcement. He said the deputy who threw the party busted him for drunken driving three of four years ago but didn’t learn he was the host until filing the complaint.

Trish Harren-Klein, the county coordinator who took Thompson’s complaint, said she did not go to the party but that an invitation was extended to all county staff. She also said employees of the U.S. Border Patrol, the cities of Roseau, Greenbush and Warroad, as well as the county attorney’s office were possibly in attendance.

County Attorney Lisa Hanson would not comment on whether she or anyone in her office went to the party.

Hanson said the BCA is investigating multiple agencies, but would not say how many officers are involved. She said she could not disclose their names and ranks because of state privacy laws.

Sjaaheim, who said people usually think she looks her age, said nobody at the party questioned how old she was as she drank the beer.

Sjaaheim attends Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead and said she has heard rumors that she will be charged as a minor in consumption or in possession of alcohol.

The 20-year-old said she’s felt guilty about making a “stupid decision” that has affected many people.

She said the experience has taught her a tough lesson about posting photos on Facebook.

“I’m just going to stick to family and friends photos, nothing crazy,” she said.

The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.