MINOT, N.D.-Defense attorneys for two former Trinity Hospice nurses in Minot charged with stealing drugs from patients are asking a judge to dismiss the charges because they fall outside the statute of limitations.
April Beckler, who now lives in Fargo, and Kim Kochel are each charged with three felony counts of endangering a vulnerable adult, criminal conspiracy and theft of property.
The offenses are alleged to have occurred between December 2012 and September 8, 2014. However, the charges were not filed against the two women until Aug. 31, 2017.
The statute of limitations for a felony offense in North Dakota is three years.
Judge Todd Cresap said Tuesday, Aug. 15, he will take the matter under advisement and issue a ruling at a later date.
Ward County Assistant State's Attorney Marie Miller told Cresap that the state filed the charges within the statute of limitations. Trinity personnel did not discover the thefts until Sept. 5, 2014. She also said that the state is arguing that the last action in an ongoing crime -the conspiracy - took place in September 2014.
Eric Baumann, Beckler's defense attorney, said some of the crimes his client is alleged to have committed - endangering a vulnerable adult by diluting medication or giving a less potent pain medication - were completed and over with before September 2014.
Miller told the judge that Kochel and Beckler potentially endangered other patients prior to that. The state chose to charge Beckler and Kochel for endangering three alleged victims whom the women were still treating as of September 2014, which places it within the three year statute of limitations.
Beckler's attorney also argued in his brief that the nearly three year delay in filing the charges has violated his client's due process rights. Some of the potential witnesses were elderly and might no longer be available and memories can fade over a lengthy period of time.
Tom Slorby, Kim Kochel's attorney, echoed Baumann's arguments.
Miller told the judge that the delay in filing the charges was caused by Trinity failing to provide the necessary materials to Minot police to start an investigation.
"The pre-accusation delay which occurred was done for legitimate investigative purposes, and the State did not intentionally delay the investigation or charging of the defendants for the purpose of obtaining an advantage over the defendants," wrote Miller in a brief and asked the judge not to dismiss the charges.
According to court documents, Beckler is alleged to have confessed to a colleague in September 2014 that she and Kochel had been working together after a patient died. They brought unused medication back to their office and both ingested the medication. Beckler then began using the medication herself and had been doing so for more than a year as of September 2014. The two women are alleged to have stolen the drugs prescribed for hospice patients or endangering them by diluting the medication or giving morphine instead of more potent hydromorphine to manage pain.
Beckler has been required to be monitored via the drug patch as a condition of probation. She has had no positive drug tests for nine months and is maintaining her sobriety. Cresap lifted the drug testing requirement condition on Tuesday.
No trial date has been set for the two women.
Both Kochel and Beckler were reported to the Board of Nursing and, after an investigation, eventually surrendered their licenses.