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Published October 04 2012

Two ex-Bison players plead guilty in petition fraud case

FARGO – Following the 10 current North Dakota State University football players who pleaded guilty to petition fraud Tuesday, two former Bison players entered the same plea Thursday and received identical sentences.

A third ex-player who faces the same accusation of forging signatures on ballot measure petitions, Don Carter, pleaded not guilty to the Class A misdemeanor charge in Cass County District Court.

Carter’s attorney, Bruce Quick, said he wants to deal with a charge Carter faces in Fargo Municipal Court before moving forward in the election fraud case.

Carter was cited Aug. 26 for urinating in public. He failed to post bond or appear in Municipal Court, and a judge on Tuesday signed a warrant for his arrest, but it hadn’t been filed by Thursday morning.

In District Court Thursday, Judge Douglas Herman set Carter’s bail for the fraud charge at $2,000 cash or 10 percent bond. Carter posted the $200 for his release. His next court appearance was set for Dec. 26, but Quick said he anticipates an earlier resolution.

The two former players who pleaded guilty, Darren (D.J.) McNorton and Joshua Gatlin, received the same deferred imposition of sentence as the 10 current players. If they don’t commit any further offenses in the next 360 days, the charge will be removed from their public records. They also must complete 50 hours of community service by April 15 and pay $325 in fees.

As she did for three of the 10 current players, Assistant State’s Attorney Tracy Peters argued that McNorton should receive a suspended sentence – which would remain on his permanent record – because he had a prior misdemeanor conviction, for driving without liability insurance.

But Herman, while noting Peters was well within her rights to request a stricter sentence, again cited the uniqueness of the petition fraud case and the charges “being so unrelated.” He also reiterated his desire to treat the players equitably.

Quick, who also represented McNorton, Gatlin and the 10 current players, may have a harder time convincing the judge to give Carter the same sentence, as Carter has received two deferred impositions this year and a suspended sentence for a third offense.

In January, the 20-year-old pleaded guilty in Municipal Court to a Class B misdemeanor alcohol offense. In July, he pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor charge of ingesting a controlled substance, admitting he ate marijuana to try to get rid of it during a traffic stop on March 29, according to the police report. He received deferred impositions in both cases.

On Aug. 27, Carter was again cited for an underage drinking offense. He received a 30-day suspended jail sentence and 40 hours of community service.

Peters said prosecutors will argue “for at least a suspended sentence and possibly some jail time or additional community service” in Carter’s case.

The fraud charges were tied to petition drives involving two North Dakota initiated measures now barred from the November election. The separate initiatives sought to legalize marijuana for medical use and to establish an outdoor heritage fund.

Two people not affiliated with Bison football also were charged in the case. One pleaded guilty on Tuesday, and the other, 25-year-old William John Brown, pleaded not guilty.