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GOP Lawmaker Under Fire Over Texts to Inmate Facing Child Porn Charges

GOP Lawmaker Under Fire Over Texts to Inmate Facing Child Porn Charges

An influential Republican state lawmaker stepped down as leader of an important legislative panel less than a week after a report accused him of exchanging more than 70 text messages with a jailed landscaper facing federal child pornography and sexual abuse charges.

Sen. Ray E. Holmberg, a 78-year-old grandfather of five, is North Dakota’s longest-serving state senator—and until yesterday, chairman of the Legislative Management Committee, which decides members’ assignments and topics to consider for legislation.

“Recent events and discussions have made it clear to me that the interim governing body of the legislature, Legislative Management, does not need to be any part of that discussion,” Holmberg said in a statement on Wednesday announcing his resignation. “Consequently, I will be stepping down as chairman of Legislative Management, effective immediately. This will allow Vice-Chairman Chet Pollert to complete my term. No further comments on this announcement will be forthcoming.”

Reached by phone Thursday morning, Holmberg, who last month abruptly announced he would not seek reelection due to “medical issues,” declined to comment on the texts or explain why he had been in touch last August with 34-year-old Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier, whom the feds allege had victimized as many as 21 children, including his own nephews. The two reportedly texted back and forth some 72 times, with 65 of the messages being sent within a two-hour timeframe, according to the Forum Of Fargo, which obtained the jail call log through a Freedom of Information request.

The text messages themselves have not been publicly released.

“I take the advice of my counsel and I do not talk to anyone about that,” Holmberg, a retired school counselor, told The Daily Beast.

Mark Friese, a well-known criminal defense lawyer in Grand Forks retained by Holmberg, said he was seeking further details about the reported interactions with Morgan-Derosier.

“I have very little information, we’re still gathering information,” Friese told The Daily Beast, noting that Holmberg had voluntarily resigned from his chairmanship and had not been “removed from the legislature or anything like that.”

“I don’t have any reports on anything yet,” Friese said. “I don’t have the messages. I’m working on it.”

Rep. Josh Boschee, the Democratic minority leader of the North Dakota House of Representatives, said he thought it appropriate that Holmberg stepped down from his leadership position, but told The Daily Beast that “there are still a lot of unknowns.”

“The first thing I called on Senator Holmberg to do was to make a request to the authorities to make those messages public,” Boschee said. “I am continuing to respond publicly, as more information comes out, that we will evaluate as we go. I certainly want to respect and listen to people who have accusations, but also want to make sure we respect everyone involved. Victims have rights, and so do people…

Read Full Story At: The Daily Beast.

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