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Grand Forks attorney accused in conspiracy to murder confidential informant

Longtime Grand Forks criminal defense attorney Henry Howe was arrested Thursday and charged with conspiring to murder a confidential informant in the drug case of one of his clients.

Howe is set to appear in court today for a bond hearing in state district court in Grafton, N.D.

The count of conspiring with two suspected drug dealers to kill an undercover informant carries a top penalty of life in prison.

The co-defendants are Paul Lysengen of Minto, N.D., and Wesley Wayne Smith of St. Thomas, N.D.

The alleged conspiracy among the three involves discussions on how to kill a confidential informant in two drug cases filed against Lysengen last year, accusing him of dealing methamphetamine, cocaine, amphetamine and marijuana out of a home in Warsaw, N.D., on two occasions in May.

Howe was representing Lysengen in those cases, one of which carries a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence because of his prior criminal history, according to Walsh County State’s Attorney Barbara Whelan.

The murder conspiracy charge against the three men says that they discussed the confidential informant being “gone” for the criminal trial and the effect that would have on Lysengen’s criminal cases, in which Howe is representing Lysengen.

According to the charge, Howe presented Lysengen audio recordings made by investigators during a controlled buy between Lysengen and the confidential informant. He also provided information so the two men could identify the informant, and Lysengen allegedly gave Smith a photo of the informant.

The informant was working with the Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force.

The charge also said Lysengen and Smith met to discuss “available options for luring” the female confidential informant to a location and plan how to drug her and make her death “appear as accidental asphyxiation.”

The informant was described as the key witness who made a controlled buy in May as part of the narcotics task force investigation of Lysengen.

The charge includes allegations Howe discussed with Lysengen that the informant “needed to be ‘gone’ more than five days prior to trial or else it would look ‘suspicious.’”

Howe has been a well-known criminal defense attorney for more than three decades in Grand Forks with law offices at the southeast corner of Fifth Street and DeMers downtown.

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