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Bison Players Plead Guilty To Fraud - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

UPDATE: Players Plead Guilty To Fraud

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Ten current North Dakota State University players pleaded guilty this morning to petition fraud in their first court appearance. Ten current North Dakota State University players pleaded guilty this morning to petition fraud in their first court appearance.

Twelve people including 10 football players  took center stage Tuesday morning in Cass County Court on charges of election fraud, a Class A misdemeanor.

The 10 current NDSU players pleaded guilty to petition fraud.

The alleged petition fraud caused North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger to throw out to potential measures on the November ballot. One was for the legalization of medical marijuana. The other was for an outdoor heritage fund.

The charges first surfaced in September. A release was sent out by the Attorney General's Office September 4. More names continued to be added to the charges eventually totaling 15.

A couple days later those involved were officially charged.

Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick says, "I don't care whether these guys are football players, baseball players or clerical workers. We'll handle them the same way."

The State's Attorney's Office recommended a lighter sentence for Joshua Colville, Brendin Pierre, Aireal Boyd, Demitrius Gray, Bryan Sheperd, Antonio Rogers and Charles Smith based on a similar case in 2008 in Grand Forks.

Marcus Williams, Samuel Ojuri and Lucas Albers were facing a different sentence, because of prior convictions on their record. It would have left the offense on their records.

Burdick says, "If you had a prior opportunity for deferred imposition of sentence or another opportunity, then we don't make that recommendation."

The judge said the players are "not smart enough, grown up enough or sophisticated enough" to know the impact of what they did. In the end, he gave all the players the same sentence: 360 days of unsupervised probation, 50 hours of community service to be completed by April 15 and $325 in fees. 

Two other people also entered pleas. Jennifer Krahn pleaded guilty and received the same sentence as the players. William Brown pleaded not guilty and requested a lawyer.

Three former bison players, Don Carter, Joshua Gatlin and D.J. McNorton had their first court appearances rescheduled to Thursday.

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Ten current North Dakota State University players pleaded guilty this morning to petition fraud in their first court appearance.

Lucas Albers, Aireal Boyd, Joshua Colville, Demitrius Gray, Samuel Ojuri, Brendin Pierre, Antonio Rodgers, Bryan Shepherd, Charles Smith and Marcus Williams all appeared in person at their hearing in Cass County District Court.

Judge Douglas Herman noted that even though he knows how serious the crime is, he was giving the players the benefit of the doubt, even if they had prior convictions on their record. Herman said the 10 were given terrible direction in trying to gather signatures and they were too young to understand the impact they were having on the election.

With that, he sentenced all the players to deferred imposition of sentence, 360 days of unsupervised probation, a $300 legislative fee, 50 hours of community service that must be completed by April 15 and a $25 dollar community service fee.

If the probation is completed with no further offenses, the charge will be cleared from their record.

NDSU Director of Athletic Media Relations Jeff Schwartz says a statement on the court appearance will be released later today.

The players all were charged with one count of violating election law by adding thousands of names to petitions seeking to get measures for legalizing marijuana and establishing outdoor heritage fund on the November ballot. The count is a Class A misdemeanor.

Neither of the measures will appear on the ballot.

Former Bison players Don Carter, Joshua Gatlin and D.J. McNorton and Jennifer Krahn and William Brown are also charged in the case.

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