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North Dakota candidate for US Senate has felony conviction from 1998

Michael Steele said the case stems from a time when he was dealing with marital issues and he was drinking heavily.

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Michael Steele.
Submitted photo
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FARGO — Michael Steele, a Fargo art and antiques vendor and an announced candidate for the U.S. Senate, has a felony terrorizing conviction from more than two decades ago.

Steele also has a Twitter account that contains campaign imagery in addition to a "likes" button that will bring up tweets he has liked in the past that show images of nude and scantily dressed women.

Steele is running as a Democrat for the Senate seat held by Republican John Hoeven, who has announced he is running for reelection.

Other candidates for Hoeven's seat include Katrina Christiansen, an engineering professor at the University of Jamestown who is seeking the Democratic nomination, and North Dakota State Rep. Rick Becker, a Republican who is vying with Hoeven for the GOP nomination.

Andrew Alexis Varvel, a historian from Bismarck, has also announced as a Democratic candidate for the Senate seat.

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A check of court records in North Dakota and Minnesota found no criminal convictions for Becker, Christiansen, Hoeven or Varvel.

However, the search uncovered a 1998 felony conviction for Steele on a charge of terrorizing.

Asked about the conviction, Steele said the incident happened at a time when he was dealing with personal issues and drinking heavily.

"I was going through a divorce at the time and I was drinking back then — I haven't drank in a decade — and I had drank from 2 in the afternoon until the time they (the bar) closed," Steele said.

According to Cass County District Court documents:

On Sept. 3, 1998, someone called police to report that a vehicle had struck several other vehicles in a Fargo neighborhood and it appeared the person responsible was trying to leave the area on foot.

An officer arriving in the area stopped and talked to a man who was leaving the area who was later identified as Steele.

The officer determined that the vehicle responsible for the crashes belonged to Steele and a witness identified Steele as the person who was seen leaving the responsible vehicle, court documents said.

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When the officer asked Steele how his vehicle got to that location, Steele said to the officer, "you were driving," according to court documents.

'You'll end up dead'

When Steele was being taken to the hospital for a blood sample, he told an officer, "If you (expletive) with me you'll end up dead," according to court documents, which state Steele later told officers that if they messed with him they would end up with bullets in their heads.

In one police report filed with the court, an officer wrote that Steele's "obvious intoxication" led Steele, in the officer's opinion, to make wild and unreasonable statements, including descriptions of his occupation that ranged from Army ranger to private investigator and "patriot."

Steele ultimately pleaded guilty to the terrorizing charge, doing so using an Alford plea. An Alford plea means a defendant doesn't take responsibility for a crime, but agrees a jury could find them guilty based on the evidence.

Steele was sentenced to one year on the terrorizing charge, but the time was suspended on the condition he complete two years of supervised probation.

Steele has a number of Twitter accounts and on one of them the "likes" button brings up tweets Steele apparently liked at some point, including dozens of tweets showing images of nude and scantily dressed women.

Steele said it is an account he no longer uses but is unable to close because he no longer has control over it.

"When I go to it (the Twitter account) it's been deactivated, it tells me. I can't do anything on that site you're seeing," Steele said, adding that he isn't concerned about the adult images.

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"I don't care," he said. "Donald Trump was paying hush money to hookers and who gives a crap. Anybody can be your friend on there."

'I'm running, too'

In regards to the 1998 incident that resulted in the terrorizing conviction, Steele said he drove home from the bar after drinking for much of the day and ended up getting in a wreck.

"I was a block away from home and I wind up having an altercation with the police," Steele said. "I was wasted out of my mind. They (police) said I was threatening. Well, I was in a blackout."

Steele said he learned a lesson from the incident.

"I was 28 years old, I'm 52 now and I haven't been in any trouble since then," Steele said.

Asked for comment on Steele's candidacy, North Dakota Democratic-NPL Chair Patrick Hart released the following statement:

"We were not aware of Mr. Steele nor his candidacy until he reached out to us after another candidate announced. At that time, and many times since, Mr. Steele has been abusive and combative," the statement read.

"He has chosen to run without any recent work with our legislative districts and without any formative interactions with the state party. We cannot and would not prevent someone from running, but his behavior toward our staff has been inappropriate and unacceptable," Hart said.

Steele denied being abusive or combative toward party officials, and he said it feels to him that Fargo-area party officials are promoting Christiansen as the party's candidate for the Senate seat, even though he has been involved in the party for 25 years and began his campaign for the Senate seat four years ago.

Steele maintained that that bias was made clear at a recent party convention where Christiansen was asked to make the keynote speech.

"They (party officials) didn't mention me as running," Steele said, adding that the slight left him "pretty bummed out."

Steele said he told those in attendance: "I'm running, too. Everybody here knows I'm running."

He said although he was initially denied a chance to speak at the event, he was ultimately given time to address the gathering.

One Twitter account set up by Steele contains a tweet Steele posted on Feb. 19 that makes reference to Christiansen.

The tweet reads:

"It is hard for a man to run against a Woman he always looks like a bully or male chauvinist. So thanks for the opportunity to run against me Katrina, so I can appear to be like that. Sad."

Steele confirmed the tweet was his and he expressed dismay that Christiansen is viewed by some as the front-runner for the party's nomination, a status he feels more deserving of given his years with the party.

"They threw her in as a spoiler against me and they're making me out to be the bad guy. That's what's going on," Steele said.

Candidates for U.S. Senate in North Dakota have until April 11 to file candidacy papers.

As of March 2, Steele, Hoeven and Becker had filed to run, according to the Federal Election Commission website .

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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