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Dave Roepke, Published November 21 2009

Stabber likely to be deported to India

A man who thought God told him to stab a fellow truck driver should be in the hands of federal immigration officials Monday.

Harmit Bhangu was found not guilty on Oct. 22 in Clay County District Court of attempted murder by reason of insanity, deemed unable to grasp what he was doing when he stabbed Montana trucker Dale Morigeau eight to 10 times on Jan. 11 at the Interstate 94 rest stop in Moorhead.

In interviews with police, Bhangu said Morigeau was a giant, one of the evil people God wanted him to kill to save Canada and the U.S. The divine indications of good or evil came via his long hair, he told police.

Bhangu will not face any prison time for the attack, but he will be deported to either Canada, where he was a permanent resident, or India, where he’s a citizen, said Clay County Attorney Brian Melton.

Judge Michael Kirk said India was the more likely destination, since Bhangu was born there. Kirk sentenced him Friday to time served on a lesser charge, part of a plea deal meant to force deportation.

“It’s good that it’s done. I’m glad he’ll be out of the country,” Melton said.

Morigeau has recovered significantly from the stab wounds he suffered, though he is planning a civil suit, Melton said.

“I think he, like anybody else, was frustrated” by the inability to incarcerate the attacker, Melton said.

Though Bhangu was deemed incompetent at the time of the crime, state doctors said Bhangu was treated to the point that he is no longer dangerous – so if found not guilty on all charges he wouldn’t likely end up in a secure hospital.

To avoid letting the 33-year-old free, Melton cut a deal: He didn’t challenge the insanity defense, and Bhangu agreed to plead guilty to an assault charge for striking a police detective as he was questioned. The assault is a felony, so immigration law requires deportation.

If he does end up back in the U.S. somehow, Bhangu is still under probation for three years. His sentence on the assault charge was technically a prison term of 366 days, with all but 157 days stayed.

Melton said immigration officers plan to pick up Bhangu on Monday, taking him into federal custody until he’s deported.

Bhangu didn’t say anything in his defense on Friday, but his lawyer said the attack was an anomaly.

“The actions are not part of any pattern in his life,” said Kenneth Kludt, his defense attorney. “Hopefully, at least for him, things will work out wherever he lands.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535