Pembina, N.D., mayor charged with drug possession, child endangerment
Warren Hillukka, mayor of Pembina, N.D., was charged this week in local state court with drug possession as well as a felony charge of child endangerment.
He was charged Tuesday in state district court in Cavalier with possession of a small amount of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor, and possessing marijuana paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor, according to state court records. He also was charged with child endangerment, a Class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Hillukka said Thursday night that, as much as he wanted to, he couldn't comment yet because of his attorney's advice, except he characterized the whole circumstance as "a pretty pitiful deal."
His attorney, Neil Fleming of Cavalier, N.D., said Hillukka denied the charges, "absolutely, of course."
He's just begun studying the case and will have more to say soon, Fleming said.
According to WDAZ-TV, Hillukka also was charged with child endangerment because his granddaughter is living in the home and was in reach of the seized drugs and paraphernalia. Hillukka, 50, works for an electric power company and has been involved in city leadership in Pembina since 1994.
He first became mayor a decade ago when longtime Mayor Hetty Walker stepped down unexpectedly over sharp words exchanged on the council, according to a Herald report.
As president of the council at the time, Hillukka became mayor. After an interim when another city council member served a brief term, Hillukka has been mayor since, including being re-elected again last summer to another four-year term.
Bev Burke, another council member, said Hillukka being charged came as a surprise.
"I don't think anybody on the council knew anything about it until it was on the news tonight," Burke said Thursday. "I have not spoken to anyone on the council."
The council doesn't have a regularly scheduled meeting until next year and Burke said she has not heard of any special meeting being held to deal with Hillukka's status.
"This is the United States of America and you are innocent until proven guilty," she said.