Accused murderer's sentence for prior felony conviction not unusual, court expert says
"North Dakota has a law that says that we're going to presume that for Class C felonies and below that probation is the appropriate disposition," said Fargo defense attorney Mark Friese.
FARGO — Questions arose among members of the public after it became known that the man accused of killing 14-year-old Jupiter Paulsen of Fargo was freed from jail less than a month before the murder after serving 27 days of a two-year sentence on a Class C felony charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
In the pending murder case, Arthur Prince Kollie, 22, who has no permanent address, is accused in Cass County District Court of choking and stabbing Paulsen more than 20 times over the course of about 20 minutes in an attack that occurred June 4 near the 4000 block of 13th Avenue South in Fargo.
Kollie was arrested not long after the June 4 attack and he remains in the Cass County Jail in lieu of $1 million cash bail.
In the firearm possession case, Kollie was sentenced May 7 in Cass County District Court to two years in prison, with the bulk of that time stayed on the condition he successfully complete 18 months of probation and serve 27 days in jail.
Because he had already served 27 days, Kollie was released from jail following the sentencing hearing.
That outcome has some in the public asking whether Kollie should have received more time behind bars for his conviction on the firearm possession charge.
Mark Friese, a Fargo defense attorney who worked as a police officer before becoming a lawyer, is not among them.
Friese described Kollie's sentence on the firearm charge as "very consistent with the sentences that are pronounced by all judges for these types of offenses."
He added that "North Dakota has a law that says that we're going to presume that for Class C felonies and below that probation is the appropriate disposition."
According to Friese, exceptions include situations where the defendant abused a position of trust, used a firearm in the commission of the offense, or domestic violence was involved.
"Mere possession (of a firearm) by someone who is prohibited is not necessarily a crime of violence and regularly courts are going to try to resolve those cases with supervision, rehabilitation and reformation rather than incarceration," Friese said.
Kollie currently faces charges in Cass County District Court of murder, robbery, and aggravated assault in the death of Paulsen, who was pronounced brain dead on June 8. The community death notice for Paulsen states that she died June 13 at Sanford Medical Center.
Paulsen's family said Jupiter was an organ donor.
A public service to honor Paulsen and bring awareness to violence in the community is planned for 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 27, at Scheels Arena, in Fargo.
The service will be held outdoors but it could be moved indoors depending on weather. Attendees are advised to bring lawn chairs.
A private family funeral will be held for Paulsen.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be directed to the family and sent in care of West Funeral Home at 321 Sheyenne St., West Fargo, ND, 58078.
Felony conviction in Morton County
Kollie's criminal record includes a 2017 felony conviction in Morton County District Court for hitting a male corrections officer in the face. The incident occurred when Kollie was 18 and he was staying at a juvenile detention facility.
The felony conviction in Morton County was a factor in the Cass County case that resulted in Kollie's conviction on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The latter case stemmed from an incident last December in which police responded to a report of a gunshot at a south Fargo apartment where Kollie resided at the time. According to court records, police found Kollie intoxicated and a search of the apartment yielded at least one firearm along with ammunition.
Kollie pleaded guilty to a number of charges in that case, including a Class B misdemeanor charge of discharging a weapon within city limits and the Class C felony charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
At the May 7 sentencing hearing in that case, Judge Wade Webb gave Kollie two years in prison and stayed most of that time on the condition Kollie serve the aforementioned 27 days in jail and complete probation.
Under terms of his probation, Kollie was required to obtain a diagnostic assessment within 60 days of release and to follow all recommendations.
According to Friese, the 27 days Kollie spent in jail would have given jail staff time to watch for warning signs he might be a danger to others and to inform prosecutors of any such indicators prior to his sentencing hearing.
"I can assure you that if the judge or the prosecutor had sensed some inclination that the defendant was violent, there would have been a lot more done and a lot more analysis before this disposition was imposed," Friese said.
"Twenty-seven days of jail is actually a pretty good stint of time and they (jail staff) will get a pretty good view on where he (Kollie) is at," Friese said, adding that the Cass County Jail is proactive in addressing mental health issues among prisoners.
"They've got a clinical mental health coordinator — so they've got somebody with a psychology degree and a social work background — and they bring in psychiatrists and mental health professionals," said Friese, who noted that if any issues are detected in the case of a given prisoner the jail keeps a documented history of mental health or psychological problems.
But sometimes, Friese said, warning signs may not be there, or they are too subtle to raise immediate alarms.
"If there were a way to predict when people were going to become violent, I think our justice system would operate very differently. But oftentimes, we just don't know," he said.
Kollie was arrested following an investigation that began early on June 4 after a garbage worker witnessed a man leaning over Jupiter Paulsen with one hand on her nose and the other on her throat.
The teen's attacker ran from the area, but police later traced him to a Walmart store about half a mile west of where the stabbing occurred.
Surveillance video from Walmart showed an individual grabbing new clothing, putting it on in a changing room and leaving without paying. Police found discarded shoes and clothing covered in blood in the changing room.
Later, police found a man matching the description of the individual who took clothing from Walmart and identified him as Kollie.
Questioned by police after his arrest, Kollie said he used methamphetamine the afternoon of June 3 and denied any role in the assault on the morning of June 4, according to court documents.
Kollie declined a request to be interviewed, as did his attorney, Steven Mottinger.