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Patrick Springer, Published May 17 2012

Woman charged with false report

FARGO – A woman has been charged with a misdemeanor for making a false report to law enforcement involving allegations deemed not credible against an off-duty Valley City police officer.

The charge and the allegations stem from an altercation at the VFW Club in Valley City on Feb. 27.

Lesa Jo Black of Fargo confronted a man at the bar and accused him of inappropriate conduct involving her minor daughter.

In the ensuing conversation, in which witnesses described Black as appearing drunk and acting as the aggressor, an off-duty police officer, Randy Schmidt, heard commotion and approached Black.

In her statement to investigators, Black claimed that Schmidt assaulted her, placing his knee on her chest and holding her down, making it difficult for her to breathe, for four or five minutes.

Prosecutors, who found Black not credible, declined to charge Schmidt.

“Officer Schmidt is a very professional and conscientious officer,” his lawyer, Mark Friese of Fargo, said Thursday. “He was thrust into a situation he really didn’t want to be in. He’s very delighted that he was vindicated and his actions were deemed warranted.”

By Black’s own admission, she had 10 drinks over a six-hour period, and described herself as drunk at the time.

In his statement, Schmidt said he tried to calm Black down but she shoved him. He then grabbed her arms and put her to the ground, restraining her for 30 to 45 seconds until she calmed down.

Cherie Clark, an assistant Cass County state’s attorney, concluded that Black’s statement was not reliable, given her contradictions and statements by other witnesses.

A Cass County prosecutor was selected to review the investigation instead of a Barnes County prosecutor to avoid the possibility of a conflict of interest, given the allegations were against a police officer.

Black’s own companions said she appeared angry and was screaming at the man she accused of acting inappropriately to her daughter, Clark said in her memo declining to prosecute Schmidt.

Other witnesses said Schmidt restrained Black in a “controlled manner,” leading Clark to conclude that Black’s suggestion that Schmidt acted without justification was not reliable.

“Nearly all the witnesses described Black as drunk,” Clark wrote, adding that one witness said she was “tripping over her own feet and giving lap dances to random people.”

Also, the prosecutor said Black was intoxicated and acting erratically.

“Under the circumstances,” Clark wrote, “proving beyond all reasonable doubt that Schmidt assaulted Black does not appear possible. Instead, the evidence tends to show that Schmidt acted justifiably in restraining Black.”

Black, who was charged last week with a misdemeanor charge of making a false report to law enforcement, is scheduled to make her initial court appearance Tuesday.

The false report, according to Clark, was telling a law enforcement officer that she was throwing up on a return trip to Fargo, a statement apparently made to bolster her claim that she had been assaulted.

No phone listing could be found for Black.

Lee Grossman, the Barnes County state’s attorney, declined Thursday to comment on the case.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522