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Dave Olson, Published December 15 2010

Moorhead fire chief won’t face charges

Moorhead Fire Chief Joel Hewitt, who was investigated on allegations that he hired prostitutes and illegally shared information about an investigation, won’t face charges, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Becker County Attorney Michael Fritz said Hewitt was investigated by Moorhead police based on a number of allegations.

One issue, he said, involved claims that Hewitt hired prostitutes.

Fritz said he sent Moorhead police a letter this week stating that he won’t be charging Hewitt based on those allegations, which he said came from women who said they were prostitutes.

“I am of the opinion that the allegations of the co-conspirators lack sufficient corroboration. As a result, we would not be able to sustain our burden of proof at a trial or survive a probable cause determination,” Fritz wrote in his letter to Moorhead police.

Fritz said another issue explored by Moorhead police was whether Hewitt violated Minnesota’s Data Practices act.

Fritz said he sent Moorhead police a letter in November declining to bring charges on that question.

“I do not believe that the conduct at issue violates a criminal law,” Fritz wrote in the letter to police.

“Although the suspect may have disclosed information that would be classified as criminal investigative data, his knowledge of the information was personal,” Fritz wrote.

“There is no evidence,” Fritz said in the letter, “that he (Hewitt) obtained that information through criminal investigative reports. Furthermore, he is not part of (the) law enforcement agency controlling the data. Therefore, I am declining prosecution.”

The city of Moorhead placed Hewitt on paid administrative leave in August.

At that time, an attorney representing Hewitt said police were investigating claims that Hewitt shared information about a double-homicide investigation with someone he wasn’t supposed to.

City officials released little information, other than to confirm that an internal investigation was looking into allegations of official misconduct.

The Forum on Tuesday asked Moorhead police for investigation reports relating to the allegations against Hewitt.

Police released a number of reports relating to the prostitution claims and said additional reports were being prepared for release.

The information that was released contained summaries of interviews police did with two women who said Hewitt hired them to do exotic dancing for him and they ended up having sexual contact with him for money.

One of the women said she had sexual contact with Hewitt on several occasions, both at his home in south Moorhead and at her apartment in south Fargo.

In her interview with an investigator, the woman described the outside and inside of Hewitt’s home.

The other woman who claimed to have met Hewitt and to have had sexual contact with him for money identified Hewitt from an ID photo that an investigator showed her of Hewitt.

The woman told the investigator she was 98 percent certain the person in the photo was the man she danced for and had sexual contact with on one occasion in May or June of 2010.

The Becker County Attorney’s Office reviewed the Moorhead police reports for possible charges because the Clay County Attorney’s Office wanted to avoid any potential conflicts of interest, Clay County Attorney Brian Melton has said.

Melton declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Hewitt said he would likely have comments to make, but he first wanted to confer with his attorney.

Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger said recently that there was no change in Hewitt’s administrative leave status.

A message left for Redlinger on Tuesday was not returned.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555