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Grand Forks attorney Howe hires defense for murder conspiracy charge

Henry Howe, the Grand Forks attorney charged with conspiring with two convicted drug dealers to kill a witness in an earlier drug case has hired David Thompson of Grand Forks to defend him.

Both have law offices downtown, about two blocks apart.

Howe, 72, was charged last week in state district court in Grafton, N.D., with conspiring with a client, Paul Lysegen, and Wesley Smith, to kill a female undercover informant. The informant had worked with a regional task force last May to implicate Lysengen in a drug deal in Minto, N.D., near Grafton, according to court documents. The informant was not killed but investigators asked her to move from the region last month because of concern for her life,  based on alleged recordings from a second informant in meetings with the three defendants.

“Henry Howe did not commit any crime,” Thompson told the Herald Friday. “He is a fine lawyer and a kind and decent human being. There is absolutely no merit to these charges whatsoever.”

Howe plans to add at least one more attorney to his defense team, Thompson said.

At his initial appearance Jan. 30, Howe told Judge Richard Geiger the charge appeared to be “payback” from investigators and the prosecutor for his years defending clients charged with drug crimes.

Thompson’s first move in the case was to file a motion seeking the court remove Geiger as judge in the case.

A defendant is allowed one such “peremptory” challenge to a judge sitting on a case without giving a reason and Thompson did not include any reason in his motion.

Last year, Howe had Geiger removed as judge from Lysengen’s two cases involving about 10 drug felony counts.

Howe’s law license was suspended by state officials the day after he was charged with the murder conspiracy count, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole on conviction.

Court officials will appoint another attorney to represent Lysengen in his drug case as well as on the new murder conspiracy charge.