Identity behind anonymous email revealed as reserve deputy with Cass County Sheriff
FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - We now know at least one of the people behind an anonymous email group at the center of a leaked nude photo of a Cass County deputy, as well as several released records trying to expose cracks within the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and its leader Jesse Jahner.
Code 4 Media flooded news outlet email inboxes earlier this month claiming they were an anonymous group aimed at holding elected leaders accountable.
11 days after the anonymous group sent emails to reporters across the state, Cass County reserve deputy Ben Longlet was placed on administrative leave. The sheriff’s office says an internal investigation found Longlet was behind the email address, which Valley News Live uncovered itself on a reverse email search earlier this month.
Authorities say Longlet admitted to being behind Code 4 Media, but say that’s not why he’s on leave. Instead, they say, it’s what Longlet did while acting as Code 4 that violated several department policies. One police cited prohibits disparaging remarks or conduct that could ‘disrupt the efficiency of the office’ or would discredit any employee. The office also alleges Longlet potentially broke the law as well because a deputy’s nude photo was shared without his permission.
However, Longlet’s attorney Chris Redman says not so fast.
In a statement to Valley News Live, Redman says Longlet was ‘threatened with his job’ if he didn’t admit to making the open records request as Code 4 Media.
“That’s illegal. Now there’s threats of criminal charges for sending open records to the media to illustrate workplace impropriety. That’s also illegal. Tersely, what in the hell is going on in Cass County?” Redman said.
Redman went on to state Sheriff Jahner committed misdemeanor criminal coercion with his threat to charge members of the department in an effort to stop them from ‘constitutionally protected activity.’
“As a former prosecutor, I can tell you it’s not often charged, but here criminal charges are being discussed to obviously silence whistle blowing in the Department. And they’re being discussed by the Sheriff of the largest North Dakota County against one of his own deputies,” Redman said. “The power differential here is huge. Sheriffs, chiefs, and other law enforcement command staff cannot operate with impunity or be above the laws and policies they are sworn to protect just because of their titles.”
Longlet has yet to respond to VNL inquiries, but has told another local outlet he feels the sheriff is trying to shut him up. Jahner says that’s just not true.
“The activity and potential policy violations Ben has conducted has definitely caused disruptions to the organization and Is negatively affecting morale. Several employees have questioned me as to why he has been allowed to stay at the organization. We cannot as an organization continue to have someone committing policy violations and not investigate the activity for fear of others who may follow suit or indicate in the future that policy investigations are not done in a timely consistent manner. And finally, we cannot delay these investigations solely on the fact that it is an election year,” Jahner said in a statement.
The internal investigation is ongoing and likely will take about another month, according to Cass County.
Redman says he will take all legal action necessary to defend his client’s rights under state and federal law, and says Longlet has done nothing wrong.
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