Former BMS Assistant Principal Released From Federal Custody
A former Bemidji Middle School Assistant Principal, who has been charged with federal sex crimes including child pornography, has been released from jail. According to court documents and confirmed by court staff, Brandon Bjerknes, 34 of Bemidji, is no longer in custody at this time.
During a detention and preliminary examination hearing on Monday morning, Jerrett Walton of the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office testified at the U.S. District Courthouse in St. Paul. The court determined during the hearing that probable cause has been found in the case.
Bjerknes’ bond was set at $25,000 and was to be released on personal recognizance. Under his conditions of release, Bjerknes has been ordered not to violate federal, state, or local law; cooperate with any DNA sampling requests; notify the court about any change in address or phone number; and appear in court as required or surrender as directed.
He has several additional conditions attached to his release, including a 24-hour-a-day lockdown at his residence except for medical necessity, court appearances or other activities approved by the court or a supervising pretrial services officer. Bjerknes’ location will also be monitored by the pretrial services office or supervising officer. He will not be able to possess or use a computer, or any electronic device that can connect to the internet unless approved by the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office.
Any violation of the conditions could result in additional charges, fines, or his arrest.
Bjerknes’ preliminary hearing has been waived, which means the case will now proceed to trial. His attorney, Peter Wold, did not respond to a request for comment.
The former educator and assistant principal is charged with four federal counts of child pornography and attempted coercion and enticement of a minor. He has been charged with two counts of production of child pornography, one count of distributing child pornography and one count of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor.
According to the complaint entered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bjerknes allegedly created social media accounts under the teenage person “Brett Larson.” He used this identity to coerce underage girls, including some Bemidji Middle School Students, to send him nude photos and engage in sexual conversations.
Investigators allege that he would take photos that he received from his victims and send them to underage boys for other photos of young girls. He also created videos of himself opening Snapchat photos of the female children.
Investigators have identified more than 50 female and male victims from various middle and high schools, in different locations.
The state of Minnesota will continue to pursue its four charges against Bjerknes. He has been charged with four counts of engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child.
His next court appearance at the Beltrami County Courthouse for the state charges has been scheduled for July 10th.