Apr 17, 2017 | By: Mal Meyer

Bemidji Assistant Principal Enters Not Guilty Plea, Goes To Trial

A Bemidji Middle School Assistant Principal, who was charged with two felony counts of engaging or relating sexual conduct with a child, entered a not guilty plea in court today. The case against Brandon Bjerknes, 34, will now head to trial.

During his uncontested omnibus hearing at Beltrami County Court, there was a brief back and forth of appropriate time for the county to develop its case and time for the defense to prepare as well.

The County Attorney’s office said during the hearing that they intended to call representatives from communication providers to testify and would need time to confirm that they could be present. It was unclear what companies would be represented at the trial.

Bjerknes is accused of creating a fake persona named “Brett Larson” on Snapchat and Facebook, as well as an email address under that name. According to court documents, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Department began an investigation into these accounts in January. By tracking the IP address of the account, the department determined that the physical address belonged to Bjerknes’s home in Bemidji.

During a search of the property, a sergeant took a Mirandized statement from Bjerknes during which he allegedly admitted to making the account and accessing it from several electronic devices. When law enforcement searched the devices, they found sexual texts and photos with minors via Snapchat.

The sergeant returned to Bjerknes’s home during which he allegedly admitted that he knew the victims were under 15 years old. He then told the investigator that he created the Snapchat account and all contact had been done through that account.

Bjerknes’s lawyer requested a speedy trial of two or three days. Judge Paul T. Benshoof agreed to the request.

A pretrial is planned for May 17th at 10 AM. A trial is tentatively planned to begin on May 22nd.

If convicted, the charges each carry a maximum sentence of three years,  fee of $5,000 or both.

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