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Fourth man sentenced in Grand Forks drug conspiracy that killed PR teen

Peter Hoistad

Another former UND student was sentenced this week to federal prison in the Grand Forks-based synthetic drug conspiracy blamed in the deaths of two teens.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson on Monday sentenced Peter Jevning Hoistad to eight years in prison, followed by three years of supervised probation.

That sentence triggered another sentence against him Thursday in state district court in Grand Forks. The prosecutor said his involvement in the drug conspiracy violates the terms of his four-year probation from a 2009 conviction for dealing drugs on UND's campus, and Hoistad agreed.

State District Judge Joel Medd sentenced him to three years, to be served concurrently with his federal sentence.

The judge encouraged Hoistad, 22, to remember he will "still be a young man" when he completes his sentence, and to quit using drugs "and get your life back on track."

Hoistad agreed, saying he planned "to finish school and stay sober."

"I made an extremely bad mistake," he said.

Hoistad is scheduled to check into prison Jan. 7, meaning he can spend the holidays with his parents in their North Oaks, Minn., home, monitored by federal officials.

His attorney, Cash Aaland, said Thursday that Hoistad's parents had turned over his $7,000 in drug earnings as ordered by Judge Erickson.

Busted twice

Hoistad pleaded guilty to distributing hallucinogens made by the self-described "hobby chemist," Andrew Spofford, in October. He is one of 11 charged so far in the drug conspiracy centered on Spofford; all have agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Hoistad is the fourth one sentenced.

Law enforcement officials blame the hallucinogens for the deaths of Christian Bjerk, 18, and Elijah Stai, 17, in June in Grand Forks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers said Hoistad faced up to 30 years in prison because of his 2009 conviction in Grand Forks.

Law officers in Grand Forks twice have busted Hoistad for dealing drugs on campus, in 2009 and this past summer, when they said they found pot, cocaine, methamphetamine, hash oil and $10,000 in cash in his apartment on University Avenue.

Charges filed this summer in state court in Grand Forks were dropped once Hoistad was charged in the federal case.

Judge Erickson recommended Hoistad be allowed to serve his time in the low-security federal prison in Duluth, as Hoistad requested. With up to 54 days each year of "good time" possible and credit for 97 days served since he turned himself in, Hoistad could be out in about 6.5 years.