Two-car crash kills 16-year-old Mandan girl, other driver injured

NEW SALEM, N.D. (FNS) — A 16-year-old Mandan girl is dead after a two-vehicle crash in rural Morton County on Thanksgiving, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

The girl was driving a car that was struck by a pickup truck at the intersection of two county roads about 7 miles east of New Salem, the Highway Patrol reported.

The crash happened about 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Road conditions at the time were good, authorities said.

The girl was pronounced dead at a Bismarck hospital. The 22-year-old Texas man driving the pickup was taken to a Bismarck hospital with what the patrol said were minor injuries. Authorities are investigating whether he’ll be charged in the crash.

Flanagan: Task force MMIW an ‘important first step’

ST. PAUL (FNS) — President Donald Trump’s move to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women is a good first step, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said, but more can be done to protect them.

The response came Wednesday, Nov. 27, days after Trump issued an executive order creating a task force to address the national crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. States and local governing bodies have taken the step to launch their own studies ahead of the federal action.

But the move at the federal level is set to bring in multiple agencies to set clearer protocols for investigating unsolved cases and setting up a team to review cold cases.

“This task force is an important first step, but there are additional things that the president can do to ensure our women are seen, heard and valued and that Native people are respected and protected,” Flanagan, the first indigenous woman to hold statewide office in Minnesota, told reporters.

She said Trump and the U.S. Senate should also support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the reauthorization but that measure hasn’t yet come up in the Senate, as Republicans said they’re working on a proposal that could pass there.

“We have the task force but we also need to make sure that Native women are seen, heard and valued by the United States Senate,” Flanagan said. “Currently, the way that the Republicans have presented it, it still keeps Native women at risk.”

Native American women experience violence at higher rates than any other race, the National Congress of American Indians reports. And over 80 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women have reported that they’ve experienced violence.

Minnesota’s Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is set to meet for a second time next month. The group in 2020 must deliver a report to the Legislature laying out recommendations to reduce and end violence against indigenous women and girls.

Federal government awards second contract for FM diversion project

FARGO (FNS) – Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced that the Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $59 million construction contract for the Fargo-Moorhead region’s flood protection project.

The contract, the second construction contract awarded for the project by the federal government, is for the Wild Rice River structure and includes construction of a concrete control structure with two gates that will regulate Wild Rice River flows into the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area.

The structure will be located approximately seven miles south of Fargo-Moorhead.

“This is a major step forward in the construction of permanent flood protection for the Red River Valley,” Hoeven said, adding that as a member of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Committee he worked to provide the Corps with additional construction funding to enable the Corps to fund important priorities like flood protection.

The FM flood diversion project will include a 30-mile long diversion channel in North Dakota with upstream staging.

The plan calls for a 21-mile long southern embankment, 19 highway bridges, four railroad bridges, three gated control structures and two aqueduct structures.

Two injured in Thanksgiving crash near Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Two Alexandria residents were injured in a Thanksgiving Day crash in Douglas County.

Gavin Willis Swenson, 20, and Bailey Lynn Wessale, 18, were taken to hospitals after the crash that unfolded around 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28, at County Road 5 Northeast and Miltona Bay Road Northeast, which is about 10 miles north of Alexandria, according to a news release from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Swenson and Wessale were passengers in a pickup driven by 20-year-old Isaac Patrick Roers of Brandon, Minn., the release said. Roers was driving west on the county road when the vehicle left the roadway and hit an embankment, according to deputies. The pickup went airborne before coming to rest on its side, the release said.

Roers was not hurt in the crash and was able to exit the pickup with Swenson, but Wessale was partially ejected and needed to be extricated, the release said. Wessale was flown from the scene of the crash to Centracare St. Cloud Hospital with serious injuries, deputies said.

Swenson was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Alomere Health in Alexandria, the release said. Neither he nor Wessale were wearing seat belts, deputies said.

The cause of the incident is under investigation, and the release did not say whether Roers was distracted while driving or if alcohol played a role in the crash.

Quadruple murder suspect Chad Isaak’s chiropractic license suspended

BISMARCK (FNS) — North Dakota’s Board of Chiropractic Examiners has suspended the license of the man charged in the brutal killings of four people in Mandan last spring, pending the outcome of the case.

Chad Trolon Isaak, 45, was operating a chiropractic office in Washburn at the time of his April 4 arrest. He is charged with murder in the April 1 homicides of RJR Maintenance & Management co-owner Robert Fakler and employees Adam Fuehrer and Bill and Lois Cobb, who were married.

The four people were fatally shot and stabbed at the business off Memorial Highway in Mandan. A motive for the killings is unknown.Isaak has pleaded not guilty and is set to stand trial before a jury in March 2020.

The chiropractic board served a disciplinary complaint to Isaak, who subsequently invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. He reached a settlement with the board last summer and waived his right to an administrative hearing on the matter. He and the board agreed to the suspension of his North Dakota chiropractic license until his criminal case is resolved.

The board’s website on Wednesday, Nov. 27, listed his license, issued in 2006, as inactive. His license, suspended Aug. 14, is due to expire in 2020.

If he’s convicted, Isaak will have his license revoked without further action or hearing. If he’s acquitted of all charges, his license will no longer be suspended.

Rob Quick, Isaak’s attorney, said the settlement agreement speaks for itself. He declined to comment further.Isaak is being held at the Burleigh Morton Detention Center in Bismarck in lieu of $1 million cash bond.

He has challenged the legality of police search warrants and has asked for a trial outside of Morton County due to news coverage about his case. A hearing is set for Dec. 19.

The Board of Chiropractic Examiners is a seven-person panel that regulates North Dakota’s chiropractic practices. Its members are appointed by the governor.

ND Supreme Court affirms dismissal of oil company’s lawsuit over air emissions

BISMARCK (FNS) — The North Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 27, upheld the dismissal of an oil company’s lawsuit against the state over its air emissions rules.

The lawsuit, filed by Continental Resources, focused on the way the state Department of Environmental Quality enforces leaks of volatile organic compounds from oilfield facilities. The compounds are an air pollutant and contribute to smog.

The company said the department changed course from previous enforcement practices and began issuing violation notices premised “on the notion that the mere observation of a leak at a facility with an operating emissions control device constitutes a violation” of state rules. Continental wanted the court to determine that as long as an oil producer installed and operated emissions controls, a leak would not be considered a violation.

The state argued that its warnings to Continental were consistent with its historical application of air emissions rules, in which “merely installing pollution control equipment is insufficient; operators must also ensure the equipment is actually working.” The department said the dispute began several years ago when it started using infrared cameras to better detect oilfield leaks.

In affirming the district court ruling, the Supreme Court agreed that Continental had not exhausted its “administrative remedies” to change state rules.

Continental, meanwhile, has formally petitioned the department to modify its rules. A hearing on the petition, as well as a separate state effort to assume greater authority over oilfield air emissions from the federal government, took place earlier this month. The public comment period ends Friday, Dec. 13.

ND pardon board recommends 1st batch of applicants under new policy for marijuana offenses

BISMARCK (FNS) — North Dakota’s Pardon Advisory Board has recommended to Gov. Doug Burgum the first applicants for pardons for low-level marijuana offenses.

The board’s unanimous vote to recommend the 26 initial applicants for pardons came Wednesday, Nov. 27, with little discussion. Now the five-person panel wants to better publicize its new policy for relief from minor marijuana convictions.

Five people make up the board, including North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, two governor appointees and two members of the state parole board. The Pardon Advisory Board meets at least twice a year.

The board in July approved a policy change easing the process for pardons for convictions in North Dakota of marijuana possession or ingestion or paraphernalia possession. A pardon essentially removes guilt for an offense.

An applicant is eligible under the new policy if he or she has not violated any criminal laws within five years prior to filling out the application. The policy does not cover convictions for intent to deliver marijuana or for manufacturing or delivering the drug.

Stenehjem has estimated as many as 175,000 cases going back decades could be eligible under the new policy. Eligible persons may submit a 1½-page application available at docr.nd.gov/parole-pardon-boards.

Stenehjem said the small number of initial applicants could be due to a “fairly short” window for the first opportunity to apply. He and other board members discussed ways to “get the word out” about the new policy.

The attorney general plans to contact all the attorneys in North Dakota, as well as the State Bar Association of North Dakota and the state Supreme Court. Board Chairman H. Patrick Weir suggested sending information to county auditors to post in courthouses.

The next deadline for submitting applications for pardons under the new policy is in mid-January for the board’s April 2020 meeting.

Burgum is expected to approve the pardons recommended by the board on Wednesday, Dec. 3.

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