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Ex-Rolette County sheriff pleads not guilty to charges of failing to perform his duty

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region Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Rolette County's former sheriff has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against him and is demanding a jury trial.

Richard Turcotte is charged with two counts of failing to perform his duty as a public servant. He was set to appear in court Friday but his attorney, Robert Ackre, Cando, N.D., filed a notice of appearance on Turcotte's behalf Thursday.

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One charge against Turcotte is for knowingly releasing a man with a warrant for his arrest. The other charge is for failing to follow a judge's order to take a woman into custody after a urine test indicated she used drugs.

Each charge is a Class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of a year behind bars, a $2,000 fine and $325 in administrative fees.

Both judges in Rolette County, including the one Turcotte is accused of disobeying, have worked with the former sheriff in the past. The same is true of Rolette County State's Attorney Mary O'Donnell. So, to avoid a conflict of interest, Judge Lee Christofferson in Devils Lake and Ramsey County State's Attorney Lonnie Olson will handle the case.

Turcotte was removed from office by the governor after state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem accused him of "misconduct, malfeasance, neglect of duty in office or gross incompetence" at the end of July. He was accused of employing as deputies people not licensed as peace officers, failing to keep written records of county property and not having properly trained staff supervising inmates at the county jail, among other charges.

Turcotte, who is in his 60s, served as a police officer in Belcourt, N.D., for about 17 years before being elected sheriff in 2006 and taking office in January 2007.

A message left at Ackre's office was not returned Friday. A man who answered the phone at Turcotte's home Friday said the former sheriff was out of town and could not be reached.

Turcotte's next court date is scheduled for Feb. 17.

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