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Bison Football Players Charged With Fraud - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Bison Football Players Charged With Fraud

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UPDATED: 09/04 6:30 p.m.

Legal troubles continue to follow this year's Bison football team. Eight current players and one from last year's championship squad are accused of petition fraud.

Tuesday the North Dakota Attorney General's Office announced they face charges of facilitation of voter fraud or filing a false statement, a Class A Misdemeanor.

As a result, two citizen initiatives will not make it onto the November ballot. The State says that is because hundreds of signatures on the initiative petitions were bogus.

Those involved were hired at nine dollars an hour to gather signatures. Bison fans will recognize several of the players. Four of them, running back Samuel Ojuri, defensive backs Marcus Williams and Brendin Pierre and offensive lineman Josh Colville are starters.

The player from last year's team is Josh Gatlin.

The matter took center stage at the weekly Bison news conference, normally held to answer questions about the team's upcoming game.

Bison head coach Craig Bohl stood in front of anxious journalists, all wanting to know the details behind the charges announced Tuesday morning. Bohl said, "We were notified by the State Attorney's Office several weeks ago that there would be an investigation."

A review of signatures on several petitions involving an initiative for the establishment of a Clean Water, Lands and Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Medical Marijuana initiative raised suspicions at the state level.

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger said, "There were twelve bogus names. We had some famous people visit North Dakota. I believe the Secretary of State not this one but the one from Washington D.C. I believe signed one of them as well."

Once they found out, Bohl says he and athletic director Gene Taylor did not stand in the way. Bohl said, "We made the players readily available. They complied with the investigation."

At this point, as the State and Cass County sort out formal charges, Taylor and Bohl say the players are not facing any penalties from the NCAA. Taylor said, "These were legitimate jobs they got paid for like any student athlete would get paid for."

Their fate rests in the hands of the legal process. Bohl explained, "Any disciplinary action will be decided after they go through the legal process. They need their day in court."

If convicted the players could face one year in jail and a fine of $2000.

Tuesday's news comes on the heels of another legal hassle. Former linebacker Brandon Jemison was kicked off the team a couple weeks ago after being charged with indecent exposure. That case is still working itself through the court system.

Coincidentally, Jemison faces Class A Misdemeanor like the players involved in this case.

As for why the players in this case were not kicked off the team like Jemison was, Taylor said it is a matter of the crime. He says you need to look at the seriousness of the crime whether it be drugs, violence or sexual in nature.

Taylor says that is very different than names on a petition.

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(AP) - Several members of North Dakota State University's football team face charges of petition fraud. 

Secretary of State Al Jaeger says two citizen initiatives won't make it onto the November ballot because hundreds of signatures on the initiative petitions were bogus. 

The measures sought to set up a state fund for conservation projects, and make marijuana use legal for medical treatment. 

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says many of the petition signatures were copied from phone books or simply made up. 

Eleven people face misdemeanor fraud charges for making false statements when circulating the petitions. Stenehjem says most of them are current or former members of NDSU's football team. 

They include defensive backs Marcus Williams and Brendin Pierre and running back Samuel Ojuri.

ND ATTORNEY GENERAL RELEASE:

BISMARCK, ND – Two proposed measures will not be on the November general election ballot and eleven people who collected petition signatures will be charged with filing false statements or facilitation of voter fraud, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced at a joint news conference today.
 
The affected measures are the proposed Constitutional initiative establishing a Clean Water, Lands and Outdoor Heritage Fund and the statutory initiative for Medical Marijuana.
 
A review of purported signatures on several of the petitions raised suspicions in the Secretary of State's office, and Jaeger met with Stenehjem, who launched a criminal investigation by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
 
The investigation revealed that several circulators of the petitions had forged signatures on the petitions, either by taking names from the telephone directory, cell phone contact lists of the circulators, or simply making up names of people. The number of fictitious signatures that cannot be counted brings the number of valid signatures below the minimum needed to be placed on the ballot for the November election.
 
"At the same time that the state's constitution guarantees the initiative right to its citizens, it also mandates the Secretary of State to determine the sufficiency of the petitions that are submitted. My staff and I take that responsibility very seriously," said Jaeger.
 
"Petition fraud is an affront to the election process and to all citizens, and particularly to those who legitimately signed the petitions hoping to have these measures placed on the ballot. That's why it's essential that these allegations are investigated and violations prosecuted," said Stenehjem.
 
The two measures were filed separately with the Secretary of State's office on August 6, 2012.
 
Charges have been filed against Aireal Boyd, Josh Colville, Josh Gatlin, Demetrius Grey, Jennifer Krahn, Lane O'Brien, Samuel Ojuri, Brendin Pierre, Antonio Rodgers, Bryan Shepherd and Marcus Williams, for facilitation of voter fraud or filing a false statement. The charges are Class A Misdemeanors.
 
The criminal complaints allege that each of the circulators of a petition are required to sign an affidavit stating they witnessed all the signatures and that all signatures are genuine.
 
However, the investigation found that the statements were not correct and that many of the individuals whose signatures appeared on the petitions had not, in fact, signed them.
 
Several individuals have been charged for alleged criminal activity relating to both initiated measures.
 
The Cass County State's Attorney's Office will be handling the prosecution of these cases. The maximum penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is one year's imprisonment, a fine of two thousand dollars, or both.
 
"It is important to note that although the investigation reveals that the allegations are substantial and reliable enough to conclude that the Secretary of State may not count the questioned signatures toward the required number, these are allegations of criminal activities only, and the defendants are entitled to their day in court," said Stenehjem.
 
Without the fraudulent petitions that could not be accepted by the Secretary of State's office, neither of the sponsoring committees has submitted sufficient signatures for the measures to be placed on the ballot. For the Constitutional Clean Water measure, more than 26,904 signatures are required.
 
Of the 37,785 signatures submitted, more than 17,034 were deemed invalid, leaving the measure 7,938 signatures short. For the statutory medical marijuana measure, 13,452 signatures are necessary. Of the 20,092 signatures submitted, only 12,533 were determined to be valid, leaving the committee more than 900 signatures short.
 
The investigation is ongoing, and additional charges against other individuals are possible.
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