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Dave Roepke, Published August 03 2010

Ex-Bison player pleads guilty

A fourth man charged in a series of thefts from Best Buy pleaded guilty Monday and was put on probation.

Garrett Johnson pleaded guilty in Cass County District Court to felony theft and was sentenced to the two days he’d already served in jail, 50 hours of community service, 18 months of supervised probation and a $500 fee, said Tanya Johnson Martinez, an assistant Cass County state’s attorney.

Johnson was a defensive end for North Dakota State University’s football team until the theft charge was filed on April 14.

NDSU Athletic Director Gene Taylor said Monday that there is no chance Johnson will be allowed back to play for the Bison.

“He has had plenty of chances, and he doesn’t get any more,” Taylor said.

Johnson was suspended for two games last fall after being arrested for driving under the influence, and Taylor said Coach Craig Bohl was “pretty clear with him early in the process” about disciplinary measures for run-ins with the law.

Johnson is one of 12 men charged in the alleged theft ring.

Nine defendants had ties to local collegiate athletics, including ex-Bison football players Johnson and Gregory Reid Jr., who pleaded guilty in June.

Investigators believe the thefts were an inside job, facilitated by two security guards who allowed friends to wheel carts of unpaid merchandise out of the Fargo electronics store.

Best Buy officials told police they believe $150,000 in goods was taken from September to February.

In addition to the four who’ve pleaded guilty, six defendants have set dates to change their not-guilty pleas – including the security guards, Paul Larson and Adetimisola Ogundipe.

Ogundipe was scheduled to change his plea Monday, but the hearing was delayed to later this month, Johnson Martinez said.

Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer contributed to this report.

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