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Feds searched home of North Dakota Sen. Holmberg, took items into evidence

Officers who searched Holmberg's condo in Grand Forks also investigated a child porn suspect who exchanged texts with the state senator.

Ray Holmberg Dec. 29 2021.jpg
North Dakota Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, shown here on Dec. 29, 2021.
Forum News Service photo
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GRAND FORKS — Federal agents searched the home of North Dakota’s longest-serving state senator and seized several items in November, less than three months after he exchanged text messages with a jailed child porn and child sex abuse suspect, according to a police report.

The police report, obtained Wednesday, May 4, by The Forum through a public records request, describes the Nov. 17 search of Sen. Ray Holmberg’s condo in Grand Forks.

A federal agent knocked on Holmberg’s door at about 9:30 that morning and announced that law enforcement had a warrant to search his home, the report said. Holmberg answered the door and was present for the search.

A Grand Forks police detective helped with the search while federal agents interviewed Holmberg at his dining room table. The detective found “a couple” of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs in the drawer of a bedroom nightstand, according to the report. CD-Rs and DVD-Rs are discs onto which data can be recorded.

Along with the discs, “multiple other items were seized by officers and placed into evidence,” the detective wrote in the report, which did not say what those other items were.

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The discs "were photographed and seized and turned over to the evidence agent on scene," the report said.

The report did not state the reason for the search. What is known is that the two federal agents and the Grand Forks police detective who searched Holmberg’s home also investigated Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier, the jailed child porn and child sex abuse suspect who exchanged texts with Holmberg in August.

Reached by phone Thursday, Holmberg declined to comment for this story. His attorney, Mark Friese, told The Forum he's investigating the search warrant.

Morgan-Derosier, a 34-year-old Grand Forks man, faces federal charges of possessing, receiving and distributing child porn. Federal prosecutors have also accused Morgan-Derosier of taking two children from their Twin Cities-area home to Grand Forks without their mother’s permission with intentions of sexually abusing them.

Homeland Security Special Agent Daniel Casetta wrote the federal criminal complaint against Morgan-Derosier. His colleague, Special Agent Timothy Litzinger, and Grand Forks Police Detective Jennifer Freeman aided in the investigation into Morgan-Derosier. All three law enforcement officers took part in the search of Holmberg’s home.

Casetta and Litzinger were the agents who interviewed Holmberg, according to the police report, which did not disclose details of the interview. The Forum was unable to obtain a copy of the search warrant or documents stating what other items were seized.

MORE COVERAGE ON RAY HOLMBERG

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in North Dakota and the Grand Forks Police Department declined to comment on the search of Holmberg’s home.

The search came less than three months after Holmberg exchanged text messages with Morgan-Derosier while Morgan-Derosier was being held in the Grand Forks County Jail.

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A Forum investigation, published April 15, revealed that jail records showed Holmberg and Morgan-Derosier exchanged 72 text messages while Morgan-Derosier was incarcerated, including 65 messages during a two-hour period on Aug. 23. Holmberg previously said he didn’t know Morgan-Derosier was in jail at the time and that he was texting Morgan-Derosier about “a variety of things,” including patio work Morgan-Derosier did for him.

Inmates can pay to use a text messaging service in jail, which is what Morgan-Derosier did, a jail official confirmed.

A federal prosecutor said during Morgan-Derosier’s Jan. 4 detention hearing that he had text exchanges from jail with a 77-year-old Grand Forks man on Aug. 23, according to a court transcript, which did not name the 77-year-old man. In trying to show that Morgan-Derosier exhibited a pattern of exploiting others, prosecutor Jennifer Puhl said the 77-year-old man asked or told Morgan-Derosier that “he wants him to bring (Morgan-Derosier’s 19- or 20-year-old boyfriend) over to his house to give him a massage,” according to the transcript.

“Now, he (the boyfriend) does not consider himself a victim, no question, but I think what we’re seeing, of course, is exploitation,” Puhl said in the transcript. “At the time of the defendant’s arrest, law enforcement asked (the boyfriend) whether he was aware that the defendant was serving him up to a seven — or a 77-year-old man, and (the boyfriend) said no, Your Honor.”

Holmberg would have been 77 years old at the time of the text exchanges. He is now 78.

When The Forum previously asked Holmberg whether investigators spoke with him about Morgan-Derosier, Holmberg said he didn’t want to talk about it.

“That doesn’t mean one thing or another,” Holmberg said.

Holmberg also said the texts were “gone” when asked if a reporter could review the messages. Jail officials and federal prosecutors declined to disclose the contents of the messages, citing the open investigation into Morgan-Derosier.

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First elected in 1976, Holmberg, a Grand Forks Republican, is the longest-serving state senator in the U.S.

In the wake of The Forum’s April 15 story, as well as news coverage of allegations made on Twitter that Holmberg sexually assaulted a former North Dakota man in 2010 while in Florida, Holmberg announced he will resign as a state senator on June 1. He had already said in March that he did not plan to run for reelection before his term expires at the end of this year, citing health issues including weakened cognitive abilities.

Holmberg is one of the most powerful legislators in the state. He heads the Senate Appropriations and Rules committees. He also served as a vice chair for the state Legislature’s redistricting committee.

He chaired Legislative Management, a group of lawmakers that decides who serves on which legislative committees. He stepped down from that position on April 20, days after The Forum’s story on the text exchanges.

MORE FROM APRIL BAUMGARTEN
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April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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