N.D. farm family in standoff might avoid prison time

Farm Forum

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) – A northeastern North Dakota farmer involved in a summer-long standoff with law enforcement in 2011 has struck a plea deal with prosecutors that could keep him and his family from serving prison time. The county sheriff involved in the case wants it to go trial.

Rodney Brossart, 56, of rural Lakota, is accused of resisting arrest, damaging a law enforcement vehicle and threatening deputies in the standoff that began as an investigation into missing cattle, intensified when family members ignored repeated orders to appear in court, and ended with arrests in which authorities used an unmanned drone to conduct surveillance.

Three of Brossart’s sons are accused of pointing rifles at deputies and a daughter is accused of assaulting a deputy. Brossart’s wife, Susan, was accused of lying to authorities.

All but Susan Brossart faced felony charges – including theft and terrorizing – that would be reduced to misdemeanors under the proposed plea deal. Brossart and his sons – Alex, 28; Thomas, 25; and Jacob, 22 – would serve probation, and pay fines, fees and restitution. The two women would be offered pre-trial diversions, meaning they would be referred to rehabilitative or restitution programs rather than prosecuted.

It is typical to try to resolve a case before taking it to trial, Grand Forks County State’s Attorney Peter Welte told the Grand Forks Herald. The case was moved from Nelson County to Grand Forks County after defense attorneys said the Brossart family’s history of feuding with neighbors and local officials, along with the small population of the county, would make it difficult to find an unbiased jury pool.

State District Judge Joel Medd must agree to the plea agreement. Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke said he and other law enforcement officers have filed victim impact statements with the court, hoping the judge will not accept the plea deal.

”This case needs to go to trial,” Janke said. ”Let it go before (Brossart’s) peers. We stand strong on that. Justice will not be served if the Northeast Judicial District of North Dakota accepts such a plea.”