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Emily Welker, Published May 22 2013

Ex-Bison player denies he faked community service

FARGO – A former football player at North Dakota State University denied Wednesday that he at one point faked the community service he was ordered to serve for pleading guilty to faking signatures on an election petition.

“It wasn’t true at all, I didn’t disrespect nobody at that thrift store,” said Josh Gatlin of an affidavit filed in Cass County District Court by Restore, the nonprofit that administers community service for the courts.

The affidavit alleged Gatlin had not initially met the April 15 deadline to perform 50 hours of community service. Instead, Gatlin showed up at the Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Store, the nonprofit where he was placed, punched in and then disappeared, returning only to punch out, Restore officials claimed in the affidavit.

Gatlin was also accused of what Restore referred to in court records as a “similar incident” in sandbagging for the city of Fargo.

The ex-Bison is among 15 defendants – 10 current football players at the time, three of them ex-players like Gatlin – who pleaded guilty last fall to faking signatures on petitions to place two proposed statewide initiatives on North Dakota ballots in November’s election. The proposed measures, which were thrown out because of the fake signatures, sought to legalize medical marijuana and establish an outdoor heritage fund.

All 15 pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor election offense and were sentenced to a deferred imposition of sentence, 360 days of unsupervised probation, 50 hours of community service and a fine of $325 or $350. In a deferred imposition, the charge is removed from a defendant’s public record if probation is successfully completed with no new criminal offenses.

Court records show Gatlin completed his hours the day before a Monday hearing that had been set to show why he should not be held in contempt or have his probation revoked. Restore asked the court to dismiss the hearing.

“I shouldn’t have done an extra 24 hours. I didn’t complain – I just did it,” said Gatlin of the 39.75 hours of community service the affidavit claimed he hadn’t performed.

Gatlin said he didn’t know about the manager’s belief that he had shirked his work until the week before the deadline. He said he talked with his Restore case manager, who told Gatlin he would have to take the thrift store manager’s word over Gatlin’s.

He couldn’t explain why the store manager believed he was not doing work he’d agreed to do.

“We – as the other football players – have moved on with our lives. We’re trying to be better role models. We feel bad about what happened, lesson learned. We did our punishment, we served our sentence,” said Gatlin, who said he will play professional football in Canada.

Court records allege three other ex-players haven’t done their court-ordered community service at all.

Aireal Boyd has had his deadline extended by the court to July, and Darren McNorton failed to appear at a scheduled court hearing and has had a warrant issued for his arrest. The third man, Don Carter, is set for an order to show cause hearing Tuesday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541