Bjerknes Sentenced On State Charges
Almost a year after it started, the case of a former Bemidji Middle School assistant principal who pleaded guilty in court to four felonies came to an emotional close.
Brandon Bjerknes, 35, appeared in Beltrami County Court to be sentenced on state charges for posing as a teenage boy online while having sexual conversations with students.
On Tuesday, Bjerknes was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison and life supervision for one count of production of child pornography and one count coercing or enticing a minor to engage in sexual conduct. During the federal hearing, judge Wilhelmina Wright decided that any sentence Bjerknes would receive in State District Court would be served at the same time as the federal sentence.
One of the victim’s parents tells us that bringing the case back to Beltrami County is symbolic and places the four convictions on Bjerknes’s permanent record.
Bjerknes pled guilty last fall to four counts of engaging in electronic communication relating to or describing sexual conduct with a child, which under Minnesota sentencing guidelines required Judge Paul Benshoof to sentence Bjerknes to 15, 20, 25, and 30 months in prison for each of the four counts.
Bjerknes and his attorney Peter Wold requested to have the sentence executed. Bjerknes was remanded into the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons following the hearing.
A tearful statement read by Bjerknes said, “There is no excuse for what I did” and continued to say, “I can never say how sorry I am.”
Throughout the hearing, emotional testimony was given by the victim’s parents. One parent said, “It is true that there was no touching, that we know of in this case. But Brandon Bjerknes repeatedly entered my home. He was there every day in my daughter’s bedroom and he was alone with her in her bathroom with the help of social media and he had daily physical access to her every day at school.” The parent went on to say “it is far from over for the victims. This kind of pain doesn’t heal easily.”
Judge Benshoof granted a request by prosecuting attorney David Frank to keep the restitution option open for 45 days for victims to submit restitution requests.