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Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, Published June 12 2012

North Dakota farm family wants terrorizing, theft charges dismissed

LAKOTA, N.D. — Attorneys from both sides gave a preview of what the trial of Rodney Brossart might be like during a hearing Monday on his motion to have the felony charges against him of terrorizing and theft dismissed.

Brossart appeared with his wife, Susan, and their children Abby, Jacob, Thomas and Alex, all appearing jointly in the pre-trial hearing before state District Judge Joel Medd over criminal charges related to their aggressive resistance to law enforcement officers a year ago who were responding to a complaint from a neighbor over three stray cows and their calves.

Bruce Quick, the Fargo attorney defending Brossart, questioned Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke and his chief deputy, Eric Braathen, over what Quick argues in his motion was a cruel and unwarranted arrest last summer.

The fact that Braathen used a Taser on Brossart several times within “one minute and 18 seconds” of introducing himself in a farm field over what was at the time a suspected misdemeanor is part of the “outrageous government conduct” that requires the charges be dropped, Quick argued in his brief and through his questioning Monday.

Janke had no right to serve a search warrant that was effective only for the missile site in the middle of a field at the Brossart farmstead, Quick said.

Janke said he was attempting to serve the warrant on Susan Brossart, because she, along with Rodney, was the owner or lessee of the missile silo site where the stray cattle were penned. The three Brossart sons walked toward the sheriff and other officers, holding long guns and lowered them into pointing toward them, Janke said under questioning by prosecutor Doug Manbeck.

The issue of law enforcement’s use of a federal aerial drone to surveil the Brossarts last summer came up only briefly Monday in court.

Janke said he never asked the U.S. Border Patrol for the use of the drone. But because of all the chatter June 23 about the escalating incident at the Brossarts, a federal agent asked Janke if he wanted the services of a drone.

Janke said he agreed and did view the laptop screen showing the Brossart farmstead from high above that day. But the drone didn’t affect his actions that day, Janke said.

Judge Medd said he would rule within 30 days on the motions to dismiss the charges and to move the trial because of the publicity. Other pre-trial conferences, including deadlines for possible plea bargains, will be set after his ruling.

Dan Gast, a Fargo attorney, represented Susan Brossart and the four Brossart children Monday in court, asking a few questions of witnesses.

Both sides have agreed to handle the cases against all six family members, who remain free on bail, in joint hearings.

During a break Monday, Rodney Brossart said they are finishing up their spring planting and that the crops look pretty good.

Stephen J. Lee writes for the Grand Forks Herald.