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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published January 14 2014

ND farmer get 6 months in jail for terrorizing in case that involved Border Patrol drone

GRAND FORKS – Lakota farmer Rodney Brossart was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison, with all but six months suspended during 2½ years of supervised probation for terrorizing law enforcement officers who arrested him over a neighbor’s stray cattle in June 2011.

The unusual case attracted wide attention because Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke took up the U.S. Border Patrol’s offer of live video surveillance from a large drone of Brossart’s three sons before arresting them at their farm southeast of Lakota.

“This case should have never happened,” state District Judge Joel Medd said. “Chalk it up to stubbornness, to stupidity, to being at odds with your neighbors or any combination of those. We should never have been here if the cows would have just been returned.”

Brossart was convicted in November of terrorizing two law enforcement officers who arrested him June 23, 2011, over a neighbor’s three cows and their calves that strayed onto his farm. It’s a felony with a top sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Also Tuesday, Brossart’s three sons – Thomas, Alex and Jacob, all in their 20s – pleaded guilty each to a misdemeanor charge of menacing law enforcement officers, reduced from the felony terrorizing charge, in an agreement with prosecutors.

It meant a possible maximum jail sentence of one year instead of five years in prison. Medd deferred imposition of any sentence to the brothers. If they complete a year of probation, the charges will be dismissed.

The hearings took place in district court in Grand Forks because the Brossarts feared they would not get a fair trial in Nelson County.

Reading from a prepared statement, a chastened-sounding Rodney Brossart told Medd: “I recognize that I should have handled the situation differently. I take responsibility for my actions, and I will do what I can to ensure it won’t happen again.”

Medd told Brossart it was so clear that if he had simply responded like most neighbors would do and allow Chris Anderson to load up his stray cattle and take them home, “You wouldn’t be here today.”

“You knew they weren’t your cattle, that you couldn’t keep them,” Medd said.

“Obviously,” Brossart said quietly.

Chris Anderson was in the courtroom Tuesday, as were other neighbors of the Brossarts who had publicly opposed any plea deal for him a year ago.

Asked by Medd why he didn’t simply turn over the six head of cattle to his neighbor, Brossart said, “Sometimes things don’t make sense. … And we do things that we wish we had done differently.”