Son of murdered Fargo woman relieved bail set at $1M

FARGO (FNS) — The son of a murdered Fargo woman found dead after an apartment fire last week says he’s relieved that his mother’s alleged killer’s bail has been set at $1 million cash-only.

“Everybody’s safer now in Fargo-Moorhead because of that . . . everybody’s mom and grandma,” Nicholas Berlin said in an interview outside the Cass County Courthouse following accused murderer Sheldon Davis’ Tuesday, Aug. 6, first appearance.

Davis, 44, is charged with murdering his ex-girlfriend, 52-year old-Denise Anderson, and setting fire to the apartment where her body was found. He faces one count of murder, a Class AA felony, and one count each of arson and endangering by fire or explosion — both felonies.

Berlin said he’s also relieved Davis’ bail was set at $1 million because he’s concerned for his own safety.

“I don’t want to be the next person telling my wife or son that if Sheldon gets out I’m going to be dead,” he said. “He’s mad at me, you know, obviously, for speaking out.”

Pointing to Davis’ past record of domestic abuse, Berlin said he hopes Davis is given life in prison without parole.

“There’s a huge pattern here and I feel like (it) could have been prevented,” he said.

Berlin said he hopes prosecutors are meticulous in their case, preventing the possibility of an appeal by Davis.

In his first appearance in court on Tuesday, Davis told Judge Tristan Van de Streekthat there was “too much” left out of the case. Berlin invited Davis to speak up about any details that might be missing.

“He’s grasping for sticks, he’s grasping at the air. He’s trying to cling on to whatever he can and try to keep doubt in people’s mind(s),” Berlin said.

“If there was something, say it,” he said. “What is it?”

Attorney asks for release of list of Boy Scouts’ ineligible volunteers

(FNS) — A Ramsey County district court judge said Tuesday, Aug. 6, he will issue a written decision at a later date regarding whether to release a list of ineligible volunteers from the Boy Scouts of America.

Judge Leonardo Castro listened to arguments for nearly two hours from attorneys for the Boy Scouts of America and St. Paul-based attorney Jeff Anderson, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Anderson represented a victim, known only as John Doe 180, in a 2014 case during which he obtained the list.

Anderson claims there are 12 people on the list who were accused of sexually abusing children who currently have access to children, but he can’t release the list without the judge’s permission.

Garth Unke, an attorney for the Boy Scouts, raised concerns in court about privacy and told the judge the terms of the 2014 settlement did not include releasing the information Anderson is now seeking to make public. Unke said the Boy Scouts of America has already turned over relevant information to law enforcement.

Cramer airs criticisms against Army Corps over border wall contracts

BISMARCK (FNS) — North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer reiterated harsh criticisms of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week while denying that he pushed the federal agency to choose a campaign donor’s company to build barriers along the U.S. border with Mexico.

In written responses to questions from Forum News Service, the first-term Republican senator said he would like to see Dickinson-based Fisher Industries build some of the wall because it’s a North Dakota company.

“But while I am cheering on a constituent, I am in no way pushing the USACE to choose anyone except whoever can build the most effective wall at the lowest cost,” Cramer wrote Tuesday evening, Aug. 6. “If another company that can deliver a better product at a lower cost wins a bid, I would be just as supportive.”

The Washington Post reported late last week that Cramer held up a budget official’s confirmation while trying to obtain information about border wall contracts. He also criticized the “arrogance” of the Army Corps of Engineers, which has solicited construction bids, after officials said they could not share proprietary information.

Cramer’s office said last week President Donald Trump “deputized” the senator to work with the Corps to “ensure their process is fair, transparent, and delivers the best possible deal for the American people.” The senator met with Corps leadership Friday and received an update on wall construction and the bidding process, as well as “a number” of requested documents, his office said in a news release.

Cramer told Forum News Service Tuesday there’s no “urgency” from the Corps to build the wall, a signature campaign promise from Trump to stem illegal immigration.

“Whether this is due to mediocrity or outright corruption is the very purpose of my inquiries,” he wrote before expressing frustration with the “secrecy” of the bidding process. He said he’s requesting “nonpublic details associated with several bids awarded.”

“As I mentioned before, they understand the request remains outstanding and we are continuing to work through the system to get the requested documents,” Cramer added.

The senator’s office requested written questions from Forum News Service to accommodate his international travel.

An Army Corps spokesperson said the agency hasn’t denied Cramer access to border barrier contracts, which it said it awards based on federal regulations.

“Companies are awarded contracts when they are determined to provide the best value to the government for the particular procurement action being undertaken,” the spokesperson said.

The Corps spokesperson didn’t say why it hasn’t chosen Fisher Industries for wall work and declined to comment further, but the Post reported the agency said the company’s design didn’t meet its requirements.

Campaign finance records show Fisher’s president and CEO, Tommy Fisher, and his wife gave the maximum $10,800 to Cramer in his successful Senate run last year. Fisher was Cramer’s guest for the 2018 State of the Union address.

In May, the Post reported Trump sought to award Fisher Industries a border wall contract.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Tommy Fisher said he didn’t believe his political support was motivating Cramer’s actions. He said he was frustrated with federal bureaucracy and construction delays and touted his company’s ability to build barriers efficiently, pointing to their project on private property near El Paso, Texas.

“I’ve never asked for one bit of influence,” Fisher said. “All I’ve asked for is to get a fair shot.”

Still, the Post report raised some concern for government ethics watchdogs.

Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based and left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said it appeared to reflect the larger influence of money affecting decisions in the nation’s capital.

“This is how the sausage is made in Washington,” he said. “It is not uncommon for members of Congress and the Senate to fight for benefits for companies and people that supported them.”

Beth Rotman, director of money in politics and ethics at Washington, D.C.-based Common Cause, another left-leaning group, noted some states have enacted campaign contribution limits for principals of state contractors. She said those limits are meant to lessen the appearance of favoritism in awarding government contracts.

“We can’t know what somebody’s thinking but we can know what it looks like,” Rotman said. “And it doesn’t look good.”

Cramer has said his support for Fisher Industries hasn’t been influenced by campaign contributions. On Tuesday, he pointed the finger at “liberal media” and what he saw as an unaccountable bureaucracy while calling on Corps leadership to identify the “leaker” of his emails to the Post.

“I’d like to see a journalist be as concerned about a government agency spending billions of dollars without accountability as they are about a senator advocating for a constituent,” Cramer wrote.

Transgender student’s locker room lawsuit to continue

ANOKA, Minn. (FNS) — A judge is allowing a transgender student’s lawsuit against the Anoka-Hennepin school district to move forward on discrimination claims related to locker room access.

The student, identified in court records as N.H., sued the district in February after he was told to use a single-occupancy changing room instead of the boys locker room during gym classes and swim team practices at Coon Rapids High School, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

The school district sought to have the case dismissed, citing a 2001 discrimination case in which a Minnesota employer ordered a transgender woman to use a single-occupancy restroom. The Supreme Court in that case sided with the employer.

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