WALKER -- Assistant Cass County Attorney Chris Strandlie said in an interview Wednesday he expects to see more Cass County criminal cases referred for federal prosecution as a result of the Drugs, Guns and Gangs Task Force here.
A federal grant has enabled the Cass County Sheriff's Department and Leech Lake Reservation Department of Public Safety each to hire an officer this year to focus on crimes involving drugs, guns and gangs in the county.
Strandlie said that when cases qualifying for prosecution in federal court will result in stiffer penalties for those convicted, he expects those cases in the future to be prosecuted in the federal rather than county district courts under state jurisdiction.
He said to date cases the federal court accepted from Cass County investigations have involved at least two of the three elements -- drugs, guns or gangs.
County Attorney Earl Maus said Thursday he and several other county attorneys have signed a memorandum of agreement with U.S. Prosecutor Tom Heffelfinger to evaluate each case according to whether state or federal laws will result in stiffer penalties upon conviction.
"We have been pleased with the U.S. attorney's office in assisting us with cleaning up the problem," Maus said of the current effort to address drugs, guns and gangs in the county.
On Feb. 17, county district court charges filed against two men arrested following a Nov. 29 search warrant the Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force served on a Pike Bay Township home were dismissed.
These cases against Jesse Lee Jones, 20, Cass Lake, and George Joseph Butler, 59, Minneapolis, have been referred to federal court under federal grand jury indictments filed Feb. 10.
Jones faces four counts: possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, possession of Hydrocodone, possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number (a .22-caliber rifle) and possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number (a .22-caliber handgun).
Butler faces three counts: possession with intent to distribute methamphetamines, possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack cocaine) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking (9 mm semi-automatic pistol).
All counts for Jones and Butler reference Nov. 29, 2003, when the Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force and a team of local law enforcement officers served a search warrant on a Pike Bay Township residence.
Federal grand jurors indicted Amos Ervin LaDuke, 25, Cass Lake, Jan. 13 on two counts in connection with an unrelated Cass County investigation July 16, 2003.
He is charged with felon in possession of a weapon, having previously been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year (a felony).
LaDuke is accused of possessing a rifle and sawed-off shotgun, with serial numbers obliterated.
Prior felony offenses cited include LaDuke's June 28, 1999, convictions in Beltrami County District Court for third-degree criminal sexual conduct and theft of a motor vehicle and a Nov. 13, 2000, Beltrami County conviction for third-degree possession of a controlled substance.
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