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Dave Roepke, Published August 31 2010

'Mastermind' of pizza-guy robbery gets 7 years

An unrepentant 22-year-old convicted of an armed robbery at an apartment in Moorhead last fall was sentenced Monday to more than seven years in prison.

The robbery at 908 8th St. S. on Nov. 8 was meant to target a suspected dealer of marijuana, with three men – two armed with guns – storming in the home after staging a fake pizza delivery to get the residents to open their door.

However, the robbers hit the wrong apartment unit, instead targeting the home of two Concordia College students who were watching Sunday night football.

In a bench trial in July in Clay County District Court, John Jose Kukert Jr. was found guilty of first-degree aggravated robbery, first-degree burglary and second-degree assault. He was wielding a shotgun in the robbery, accomplices said.

Judge Michael Kirk said the scheme was a “brazen and dangerous act,” siding with the longer sentences proposed by Clay County Attorney Brian Melton.

Melton argued for a prison term of nearly eight years, saying the bungled pot heist and the planning that went into the scheme was an alarming step for a group of young men with little or no criminal record.

“They were praying to God they wouldn’t die,” he said of the victims. “It’s as serious as it gets.”

Melton also said he was offended Kukert is quoted in a pre-sentencing report as claiming the court was “crooked as hell.”

Kukert’s attorney argued that though his client may have been the “mastermind of this mindless scheme,” he should be sentenced on his actions instead of his “defiant attitude.” Steven Beitelspacher, the defense attorney, urged the judge to consider the four-year term given to another of the five defendants in the home invasion, Noah Anderson.

Beitelspacher asked Kirk to give Kukert a little less than five years in prison.

Kirk sentenced Kukert to 7½ years in prison, which means he’ll actually serve five years if he avoids any discipline issues in prison.

The other three defendants have pleaded guilty or have set hearing dates to plead guilty, but none has been sentenced yet.

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