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Charges dropped against Fargo pharmacist accused of stealing drugs

Michael Glessing

FARGO – The worst thing about being a pharmacist accused of stealing drugs wasn’t the gossip, or even the threat of jail time, Michael Glessing said.

It was almost losing his brand-new pharmacy, less than a year after it opened inside the Hornbacher’s grocery store at 13th Avenue South and 42nd Street.

The charges against the former pharmacist at Metro Drug in downtown Fargo are set to be dismissed. The 29-year-old had faced a felony charge after he was accused of stealing more than $3,000 worth of medications on his last day of work at Metro Drug, according to the charges filed March 3 in Cass County District Court.

His employer, Chad Nelson, had told investigators he believed Glessing had taken the drugs because his former employee hadn’t yet gotten his license to distribute the highly dangerous opiates in question, according to the complaint.

Charging documents alleged Glessing then apologized to Nelson with a note and a basket of muffins and cookies left on Nelson’s front doorstep.

Cass County prosecutors since have agreed to drop the case, saying there is too much reasonable doubt to take the case to trial.

Prosecutor Leah Viste said while it’s clear that he took the drugs in question, Glessing may have thought he had Nelson’s permission, since Nelson had initially pledged to help him get started in his new business.

Glessing had documents to back up his story.

“There was unquestionably a poor choice on Mr. Glessing’s part that I do not believe rises to the level of criminal culpability,” Viste said Friday.

She said it would have been difficult to prove to a jury that Glessing had intent to deprive Nelson.

Glessing contends the criminal case against him was an attempt by Nelson to smear him publicly after he left the pharmacy with more clients than Nelson had anticipated. He believes prosecutors were pressured into prosecuting him by his old employer, who is also suing him in civil court.

“It’s kind of a hard feelings deal,” Glessing said, noting that the case was declined for prosecution at first before it was later charged out.  

Viste discounted the claims by Glessing, saying the decisions to decline to prosecute and then dismiss the case against him were based on the information available at the time.

It’s not uncommon for a prosecutor’s evaluation of a case to change as new information comes to light, Viste said. Prosecutors are often forced to disappoint victims when it turns out they can’t put a case in front of a jury, she said.  

“We definitely had a good-faith basis to charge the case,” she said.

Chad Nelson, Metro Drug’s owner, said he was “shocked” by the decision to drop the case against his former employee.

He also said the case had nothing to do with hard feelings toward his former employee. Instead, he came forward because he worried his own license would be in jeopardy if he’d failed to report the missing drugs.

“Even I didn’t want Mike going to jail,” Nelson said. “I just wanted him accountable. A pharmacy owner shouldn’t behave this way.”