Your Wednesday News Brief: February 7

By: News Director Larissa Donovan

ST. PAUL– A former Bemidji Middle School administrator was sentenced to 25 years in a federal prison yesterday. According to court documents, 34-year-old Brandon Mark Bjerknes appeared in the St. Paul Federal Courthouse for two and a half hours yesterday where he was handed down the sentence.

Bjerknes, according to federal court documents, contacted 55 minors, many of them students at Bemidji Middle School where he worked as an assistant principal. Bjerknes coerced six of them to send him sexually explicit photos and videos by using a fake social media profile of a 14-year-old boy named Brett Larson.

In addition to 25 years in prison, Bjerknes will spend a lifetime on supervised release. Bjerknes was convicted on two counts in the federal court: coercing a minor and producing child pornography. Bjerknes will be sentenced on four counts of engaging in sexually explicit conversations online with children tomorrow in the Beltrami County Courthouse.

Bjerknes, 34.

BEMIDJI– The Beltrami County Board has decided to enter into a multi-district litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors. During the work session, County Attorney David Hanson provided an overview of what the opioid lawsuit would entail, and how to find a law firm suitable to represent the county in the case.

Hanson says he will likely choose between one of two bigger firms in the state, who are already handling the same litigation on behalf of other counties. Several counties across Minnesota and the nation have entered into this multi-district litigation.

The law firm chosen would receive a 25-percent contingency fee, meaning that if the judge rules in favor of the counties, the law firm would receive 25-percent of the county’s share of the litigation award. If the counties are unsuccessful against the pharmaceutical companies, the law firm would take all the risk and not charge the county any other fees including retainer fees.

ST. PAUL– The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party reported enthusiastic turnout at the party’s precinct caucuses last night. U.S. Congressman Tim Walz is expected to claim victory in the gubernatorial straw poll. As of midnight, with 71-percent of DFL Precincts reporting, Walz took home 31.04-percent of the straw poll, with state auditor Rebecca Otto with 19.97-percent and State Representative Erin Murphy with 13.12-percent. The DFL says their caucus turnout was notably higher compared to other non-presidential election years, with over 30,000 attendees reported.

WALKER– No vehicle restrictions are anticipated for this year’s Eelpout Festival. The festival, which has been held on Leech Lake for forty years, will take place February 22-25. The lack of vehicle restrictions, according to a release, is welcome news to festival goers, who for the past two years have had vehicle restrictions in place due to unseasonably warm temperatures. Due to the 10,000 expected participants, organizers are requiring that ice houses, campers, and other encampment structures be set a minimum of 15-feet apart from each other.

BEMIDJI– United Way of Bemidji Area recently announced that Sarah Hokuf, of Evolve Creative, and Jana Wolff, of the BSU Alumni Foundation, joined the United Way Board of Directors. Hokuf and Wolff replace Jean Baer and Jon Huseby.  Baer and Huseby completed two 3 year terms on the United Way Board.


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