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Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, Published September 18 2012

Oil Patch worker gets lower bail in Grand Forks County case

GRAND FORKS - An Oil Patch worker from Texas pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a Grand Forks court to seven counts, including four felony charges of assaulting a deputy, escaping his custody and then burglarizing a nearby farmstead east of Northwood on July 13.

The case of Dakota Rye Calder dramatically illustrates some of the dynamics the oil field boom in western North Dakota can bring to the state’s courts in the northeast district.

Calder, 23, has been in the Grand Forks County jail since July under a bond of $7,500, cash or surety. His attorney, Tyler Morrow, asked state District Judge Joel Medd for a reduction in bail to $2,500.

If Calder can’t get out to resume working on an oil drilling rig near Williston, N.D., he won’t be able to pay his rent, get back his belongings or pay his legal fees, Morrow told Medd.

Besides, the big money the experienced roughneck can make in the Oil Patch will keep him from jumping bail, Morrow argued.

Citing the seriousness of the charges, including assaulting a deputy, Medd set Calder’s bail at $5,000 cash or surety and set a pre-trial hearing for Nov. 15.

Calder remained in the Grand Forks County jail Tuesday evening.

Calder was stopped on state Highway 15 about six miles east of Northwood on a suspected case of being in physical control of a vehicle — though not actually driving — while drunk.

While Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Deputy David Stromberg was taking him in to jail in the squad vehicle, Calder slipped out of his handcuffs. When Stromberg stopped to re-cuff him, Calder allegedly assaulted the deputy, causing bodily injuries, fled on foot despite being shot with a Taser, and refused to stop when Stromberg told him, and ran away.

A search involving several other law enforcement officers and agencies, including a dog and an air search, found him hiding several hours later at a farmstead nearby, about a mile southeast of the intersection of state Highways 15 and 18 east of Northwood. He was seen running from the farmstead and finally apprehended in a wheat field about 8 a.m.

He pleaded not guilty to a Class B felony charge of burglary at the farmstead, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and three Class C felony charges of assaulting and fleeing the officer, each with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Calder also pleaded not guilty to three misdemeanor counts in the case: theft of overshoes and two cans of beer from the farmer’s shop, failing to stop for the officer and on the original drunk while in control of a vehicle charge.

In a separate case, Calder also pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief for allegedly slashing the tires of a woman on June 13 in Northwood during a domestic dispute.

Although the woman initially asked that charges not be filed in the incident, in late July she changed her mind when she found out it cost $568 to fix the tires, said Northwood Police Officer Matt Evenson.

The woman formerly lived in Northwood and moved back from Texas earlier this year, and again is back in Texas, Evenson said.

Calder faces a Class A misdemeanor charge in that case, with a maximum penalty of a year in jail.

Morrow asked that the two cases be tracked together.

Calder told Judge Medd he moved to North Dakota only about seven months ago from his home near Dallas and has no family or other personal ties to the region.

Calder said he had worked for about two years on drilling rigs in Texas when he began commuting in February by air to a new job with Nabors Drilling near Williston.

Unable to find affordable housing in the Oil Patch, Calder said he found an apartment in Northwood early this year for $400 a month, instead of the $1,700 per month he would have had to pay in Williston.

In his application for a court-appointed attorney in July, Calder listed his monthly income as $7,000 working as a derrick hand for Nabors Drilling near Williston. That unusually high amount for such an application made him ineligible for indigence.

On Tuesday, Calder told Medd that he was in line to be named a driller on a rig, one of the top hands, at a wage of $34 per hour, if he could get out of jail.

Nobody would walk away from that kind of a job, making Calder a low risk to jump bail, Morrow told Medd. He has many clients who are commuting from eastern North Dakota to jobs in the Oil Patch, Morrow told Medd.

But county prosecutor Justin Breitwieser told Medd that with no personal ties to this area, and allegations of violent crime, Calder posed a flight risk.

Morrow said Calder should not be “penalized,” for being from Texas.

“He chose to come up here, this is where he wants to be, where he wants to work,” Morrow said. “He shouldn’t be penalized because of where his parents gave birth to him, in another state.”

Judge Karen Braaten initially set his bond at $10,000 in July and Judge Lawrence Jahnke reduced it two weeks later to $7,500, Medd noted in lowering it again to $5,000 cash or surety.