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Defense: East Grand Forks man likely face fed charges in Park Rapids teen's drug death

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CROOKSTON -- Adam Budge, the man charged here in Minnesota district court with murdering a 17-year-old boy last week in East Grand Forks by providing a deadly drug soon will face federal charges in the far-flung investigation involving several overdoses, said his attorney Friday in arguing for a lower bail for his client.

"It's guaranteed that he will be federally prosecuted," said DeWayne Johnston, the Grand Forks attorney defending Budge, 18, of East Grand Forks.

Budge made his initial appearance Friday on charges of third-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and two lesser drug charges, including providing drugs to a juvenile.

Johnston asked that a bond of $15,000 cash or surety be set, so Budge could live with his mother in Fargo and await the expected federal indictment that could supersede the Minnesota charges.

"It's my understanding there will be a venue change and (the case) clearly will be picked up by federal prosecutors," Johnston told state District Judge Donald Aandal.

"I don't know if he is (going to face federal charges), but he's facing these charges now," said Polk County Attorney Greg Widseth. He asked Aandal to set a bond of $500,000 surety, or $50,000 cash, and prohibit Budge from leaving the state or having any unsupervised contact with juveniles.

Aandal set the bond per the prosecutor's request. Budge also could bond out with no conditions by posting $200,000 in cash.

No fed charges yet

That ensures Budge likely will remain in jail in Crookston awaiting his omnibus hearing Aug. 6 when he can enter a formal plea; or until feds pick him up and move him to Fargo, Johnston said.

Aandal also set a jury trial for early September for Budge.

After the hearing, Johnston said he didn't think Budge or his parents would be able to make the bail.

The federal prosecutor for North Dakota, U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon, told the Herald this week there is a federal investigation involving the two deaths and other drug overdoses, but said he can't say much about it yet.

Federal felony charges require an indictment by a grand jury, so they typically take longer than state court prosecutions.

No federal charges have been filed yet in the investigation.

Johnston said after the hearing he was drawing the logical conclusion from public statements made by law enforcement officials about the drug cases indicating Budge will face federal charges.

Multiple juveniles

The serious charges in Polk County and the fact Budge committed them while already facing earlier charges in North Dakota district court in Grand Forks for driving while high on pot, with an empty bottle of rum in his 1994 white Oldsmobile accompanied by his 15-year-old girlfriend indicates a lack of responsibility, Widseth told the judge.

On June 12, Budge "provided a synthetic drug that, essentially, your honor, was poison," Widseth said, reading state law's definition of poison. The fact he faces possibly years in prison if convicted on the state charges and even stiffer possible penalties if a federal grand jury indicts him means he's a flight risk, Widseth said.

"More important, he's a public safety risk," Widseth said, referring to police investigations linking the drugs Budge is alleged to have provided to "multiple juveniles," including Elijah Stai, 17, of Park Rapids, Minn., and Christian Bjerk, 18, of Grand Forks, who died last week of suspected overdoses of synthetic psychedelic drugs, called acid by some.

Budge "offered acid to a 12-year-old," Widseth said, while Budge watched him from a few feet away, slightly shaking his head, apparently denying Widseth's allegations.

'Multiple lies'

"He told multiple lies to law enforcement," and failed to act in a way that might have saved Stai's life if medical attention had been sought earlier and Budge had been more forthcoming about what drugs had been ingested, Widseth said.

According to the investigator's report, Budge first said he bought a white powder from someone in the parking lot of the movie theater in downtown East Grand Forks the same day he and two others ingested it.

But within hours, he changed his story, saying he had bought the white powder two weeks earlier in Grand Forks, according to the court complaint. He also refused to tell police who he obtained the drugs from, according to the complaint.

Johnston told Aandal that Budge had cooperated with police and would act responsibly, showing up for all court hearings and avoiding bad behavior if allowed to live in Fargo with his mother awaiting federal charges. .

Family in court

While waiting for his initial appearance Friday, Budge held what appeared to be small Bible, at one point reading in it for a short time.

He several times looked over at his parents, sitting in the front row of the public section of the courtroom. His father, Richard Budge II, who made the initial 911 call June 13 about Stai not breathing, held Budge's mother close.

According to the court complaint, Stai went into a coma in the early hours of June 13 after Budge took him to his father's East Grand Forks home after Stai reacted violently to the drug Budge provided. Stai never regained consciousness and was declared dead June 15 in Altru Hospital.

Widseth said Budge admitted providing the drugs taken by Stai and by Bjerk and being associated with "the chemist," a Grand Forks man named Andrew Spofford, 22, who investigators have said in court affidavits told them he made a psychedelic drug called alternatively "acid," "DOC" or "FM." Spofford is in jail in Grand Forks facing felony charges related to making and distributing drugs.

After the hearing, Budge's parents met with Johnston, then d