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Chuck Haga, Forum News Service, Published March 15 2013

Case against Spirit Lake official advances

GRAND FORKS – A state district court magistrate found probable cause Friday to have a Spirit Lake Nation social services official arraigned on charges stemming from a 2012 incident at the Grand Forks apartment of his former wife.

At a preliminary hearing, Magistrate John Thelen said the state had provided sufficient evidence to warrant Mark Little Owl’s appearance in court next week on charges of theft, simple assault and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The theft charge, a felony, relates to a cellphone that Phyllis Roberts alleged her former husband took from her during the Aug. 21 altercation, and most of the discussion during the probable cause hearing dealt with the value of the Motorola Atrix 2 4G phone. A felony theft charge requires the taking of property worth more than $500.

Two children, sons of Little Owl and Roberts ages 3 and 7, were present during the altercation, according to a police report.

The other charges facing Little Owl are misdemeanors.

He is director of Tribal Social Services at the Spirit Lake Nation. The tribe hired him last summer to try to resolve staffing, programming and other deficiencies that had been identified in Bureau of Indian Affairs reports, especially in cases of alleged abuse and sexual abuse of children on the reservation.

The BIA took over child protection and related programs in Tribal Social Services last fall. Little Owl continues to administer other programs. Critics of the tribe’s handling of the child protection issue have questioned Little Owl’s continued role, given the charges against him.

His attorney, Patrick Rosenquist, did not challenge testimony presented by the state at Friday’s preliminary hearing, which is held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to suggest a crime has been committed and that the accused committed it.

Rosenquist said his client will plead not guilty at the arraignment, scheduled Tuesday morning before District Judge Sonja Clapp.

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