Crime, Law and Justice

North Dakota legislator's home searched after inmate texts

Ray Holmbert
North Dakota Sen. Ray Holmberg listens during a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee meeting at the Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., on Jan. 7, 2009.
Will Kincaid | AP

Police and federal agents in Grand Forks seized video discs and other items from the home of North Dakota’s longest-serving state senator after he had traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges.

According to a police report obtained by The Associated Press, a Grand Forks police detective and two Homeland Security special agents searched Ray Holmberg’s condominium on Nov. 17. The Forum of Fargo first reported about the search on Friday.

“I’m not talking to anybody,” Holmberg, 79, told the AP by phone, referring questions to his attorney, Mark Friese.

Friese, a prominent North Dakota defense attorney, said he hasn’t seen the search warrant and has had difficulty getting information from state and federal authorities on why his client is being investigated.

Holmberg, a Republican who rose to become one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers in a career that spanned 46 years, announced last month that he would resign June 1. His term was scheduled to end on Nov. 30 and he already had announced in March that it would be his last, citing stress and “a weakened ability to concentrate on the matters at hand and effectively recall events.”

The police report did not give a reason for the issuance of a search warrant. It came about three months after Holmberg exchanged 72 text messages with Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier as Morgan-Derosier was held in the Grand Forks County Jail.

Prosecutors allege Morgan-Derosier possessed several thousand images and videos depicting sexually abused children. He also is accused of taking two children under the age of 10 from Minnesota to his Grand Forks home, with the intent of sexually abusing them.

The state charges against Morgan-Derosier have been superseded by federal charges that include possession and distribution of child pornography and travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

The police report said Holmberg was present during the search of his home, which came five days after a special session of the Legislature adjourned in Bismarck. Holmberg played key roles in legislative redistricting and appropriating federal coronavirus aid.

In addition to seizing CDRs and DVDRs in a nightstand drawer in a bedroom in Holmberg’s condo, “multiple other items were seized by officers and placed into evidence,” the report said. The report did not identify the additional items.

The newspaper reported that the two federal agents and the Grand Forks police detective who searched Holmberg’s home also investigated Morgan-Derosier.