Your Monday News Brief: February 5

By: News Director Larissa Donovan

MINNEAPOLIS– New documents released last week indicate that the U.S. prosecutors intend to pursue aggressive sentencing against a former Bemidji Middle School administrator. Thirty-four-year-old Brandon Mark Bjerknes is scheduled to be sentenced this week in both the state and federal courts for producing child pornography, coercing minor victims, and engaging in sexually explicit communication with children.

U.S. Attorney Gregory Brooker states that Bjerknes is a “repeat and dangerous predator who is sexually attracted to children.” Bjerknes’ defense claims that he has been attending therapy and fear of public humiliation will deter him from reoffending. Brooker says those points are moot, given Bjerknes’ multiple years of deceiving his family, contacting 55 minor victims, coercing six of them to send him sexually explicit photographs, all while using information entrusted to him in his role as Assistant Principal at BMS.

Bjerknes is scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow in the federal court, and sentenced in Beltrami County Thursday.


GRAND RAPIDS– Two brothers appeared in Itasca County court last week on charges of aggravated robbery in the first degree. According to a release from Attorney John J. Muhar, 22-year-old Norman Wayne Cutbank, III, of Duluth and 18-year-old Montana Oshki Ayaabe Cutbank of Cass Lake are accused of being responsible for the armed robbery of a Dollar General Store last week in Deer River.

According to the criminal complaints, the two Cutbanks allegedly entered the store last Wednesday evening, grabbed items off the shelves all while covering their faces with hooded sweatshirts. As the pair approached the employees at the tills, one of the suspects brandished a handgun and instructed the employee to do as they say to avoid being hurt. The two men were picked up in a silver Mercury Mountaineer, registered to the suspects’ father. The vehicle was found the next day in Cass Lake, and a search of the vehicle discovered the handgun believed to have been used in the robbery as well as some of the stolen items.

Montana Cutbank’s unconditional bail has been set at $100,000, while Norman Cutbank the Third’s has been set at $300,000. The pair will appear in court later today.


BLACKDUCK– The Bemidji High School Speech Team won first place last Saturday at the Blackduck Invitational Speech Meet. First place winners were Dawson Gehrts and Alyssa Mess in Duo Interpretation, Jarrett Hastig in Extemp Speaking and Jordan Mann in Storytelling.

Other top three medalists were Danielle Lamour in Creative, Kitara (Ki-tair-a) Quick and Maria Hegelson in Discussion, Melanie Richards in Drama, Elizabeth Rafferty in Extemp Reading, Melanie Richards in Extemp Speaking, Marryn Willberg in Great Speeches, Kayleigh Hickman in Humor, Alyssa Mess and Veronica Wichern in Informative, Anna Lund in Poetry and Mitchell Shaw in Prose.

Bemidji’s Speech Team has a rare weekend off, then will go on to compete in East Grand Forks Friday, February 16.


BEMIDJI– The City of Bemidji is down 12 rental units from the end of last year. According to monthly reports, Bemidji ended 2017 with 3,325 units and in January of this year, 14 licenses were deleted while one was added. January 2017 in comparison had 3,146 rental units, with 11 new licenses and seven deleted.

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