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Moorhead Fire Chief Joel Hewitt

Prosecutor: Prostitution, sharing protected data at center of Moorhead fire chief probe

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MOORHEAD - Moorhead Fire Chief Joel Hewitt, who was investigated on allegations he hired prostitutes and illegally shared information about a fatal fire, won't face charges, a prosecutor said today.

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Becker County Attorney Michael Fritz said Hewitt was investigated by Moorhead police based on a number of allegations.

One issue, he said, involved claims Hewitt hired prostitutes.

Fritz said he sent Moorhead police a letter this week stating that he won't be charging Hewitt based on those allegations, which he said came from alleged prostitutes.

"I am of the opinion that the allegations of the co-conspirators lack sufficient corroboration. As a result, we would not be able to sustain our burden of proof at a trial or survive a probable cause determination," Fritz wrote in his letter to Moorhead police.

Fritz said another issue explored by the Moorhead police investigation was whether Hewitt violated Minnesota's Data Practices act.

Fritz said he sent Moorhead police a letter in November declining to bring charges on that question. "I do not believe that the conduct at issue violates a criminal law," Fritz wrote in the letter to police.

The city of Moorhead placed Hewitt on paid administrative leave in August.

At that time, an attorney representing Hewitt said police were investigating claims Hewitt shared information about a double-homicide investigation with someone he wasn't supposed to.

City officials released little information, other than to confirm an internal investigation was looking into allegations of official misconduct.

The Clay County Attorney's Office sent Moorhead investigative reports to Fritz to review to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

Reached by phone this afternoon, Hewitt said he would likely have comments to make but he first wanted to confer with his attorney.

Moorhead City Attorney Michael Redlinger said recently that there was no change in Hewitt's administrative leave status.

A message left for Redlinger today has not been returned.

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