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Assault case against top Cass County official will likely see trial

By Emily Welker

The head of county government in Cass County appears set to head to trial on a domestic assault charge here.

The defense attorney for Cass County Administrator Keith Berndt said in a court hearing Thursday that no resolution has been reached with the prosecutor in the case, which is scheduled to go to trial beginning Sept. 9.

Berndt is charged in Clay County District Court with two counts of misdemeanor fifth-degree domestic assault on a minor connected to an incident in early February at his Moorhead home.

Clay County prosecutor Pam Harris said there will likely be lengthy hearings on pretrial issues in the case.

Jade Rosenfeldt, Berndt’s attorney, has sought to keep potential jurors from hearing about “incidents that may be viewed as ‘other bad acts,’” including incidents in 2013 after a dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings and on New Year’s Eve.

Few details about those incidents – or the alleged assault in February – have been released in court records.

A police report says a Moorhead school resource officer at Horizon Middle School was contacted Feb. 4 by a person who was required to report any physical assault on a minor.

Police said the assault on the minor happened overnight on Feb. 1 and 2.

Berndt has indicated in court filings that he plans to claim he was defending himself or others.

After nearly two decades as the county’s engineer, Berndt was named Cass County administrator in 2011.

Cass County commissioners have said they will wait until the outcome of the case before considering any potential disciplinary action against Berndt.