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Published April 18 2012

Witness in murder trial: After gang threat, Wacht said cops there 'were all idiots'

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. - A Grand Forks man testifying this morning in the murder trial of Daniel Evan Wacht said Wacht told him 13 days before North Dakota State University researcher Kurt Johnson was last seen alive that Wacht wanted to start an Aryan Nation gang here.

“He told me that he was either going to blow something up or kill someone to prove that they were here,” Jason Bolstad testified.

Bolstad, 26, said he told Wacht, who now faces a possible life sentence without parole if convicted of shooting and decapitating Johnson, that he wouldn’t get away with it and the cops would be all over him.

“He said that they were all idiots and that they were corn-fed people up here,” said Bolstad, who’s currently an inmate at the James River Correctional Center in Jamestown because he violated his probation stemming from a conviction in a theft and drug paraphernalia case in 2004.

In cross-examination that became testy at times, Wacht’s attorney, Steven Mottinger, pressed Bolstad about why he didn’t offer to share his information about Wacht with investigators until he knew he was likely headed back to prison for the probation violation, which Bolstad said was the result of him having sex with a 17-year-old girl when he was 23 years old.

“The reason you did it is because you kind of thought you could help yourself out?” Mottinger asked.

“Why not help people and help yourself at the same time?” Bolstad said.

Griggs County State’s Attorney Marina Spahr noted investigators never cut a deal with Bolstad.

“Are you making any of this up to help yourself out?” she asked.

“No,” Bolstad said, adding that he’s fearful there will be consequences for his testimony when he returns to prison.

“So you’re putting yourself in harm’s way?” Spahr asked.

“Yes,” he said.

Bolstad said he was at a house party with his younger brother and his brother’s friends on Dec. 18, 2010, when Wacht and a friend showed up. He said he noticed the machine-gun tattoo above Wacht’s right ear and didn’t want Wacht around his brother.

He said he pulled Wacht off to the side and started talking to him, and Wacht told him he was in the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist gang.

They decided to go to Wacht’s house for drinks, and when they got there, Wacht and his friend pulled out guns and set them on the table, Bolstad said.

Later, Bolstad said he and Wacht went out to a cemetery north of Cooperstown and fired a gun at a tree.

Bolstad said Wacht asked him if he wanted to join the Aryan Brotherhood and had him talk on Wacht’s cell phone to a man Wacht told him was named Nico, “some kind of leader of an Aryan gang in California or something,” Bolstad said.

Bolstad said he agreed to join the gang “under some pretexts.”

Bolstad was evasive when Mottinger questioned him about whether his younger brother was with him at Wacht’s house or at the cemetery. Questioned later by Spahr, Bolstad said he was protecting his little brother “because he doesn’t need to be involved,” and he doesn’t want anything bad to happen to him “if this goes way south.”

Earlier in the day, Special Agent Mark Nickel of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation testified that agents searching Wacht’s home after his arrest Jan. 5, 2011, found a cannister containing gunpowder and marbles, as well as a coil of fuse, on an entertainment center in the home.

Nickel was among those who searched Wacht’s rented house on Jan. 5 and 6, 2011, while investigating the death of Johnson, who was last seen alive leaving the Oasis Bar in Cooperstown in Wacht’s van on New Year’s Eve 2010.

Testimony continues this afternoon.