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Former city leader wants disorderly conduct charge dismissed

ROSEAU, Minn.—A former city council member accused of intimidating a reporter during a public meeting in a small northwest Minnesota town has asked a judge to dismiss his case.

Arlyn Ray Stewart, 60, of Roosevelt, Minn., appeared Monday in Roseau County District Court with his attorney Alan Fish, who filed a motion last month calling for a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge against his client to be dismissed. The motion claims there is a lack of probable cause regarding the Oct. 1 incident that allegedly unfolded during a Roosevelt City Council meeting.

Stewart, who has pleaded not guilty in the case, was charged Oct. 25 after former city clerk Alyce Siats yelled at Doris Knutson, managing editor and a reporter from the Baudette, Minn., weekly publication Northern Light Region, after the journalist asked a question. Stewart allegedly approached Knutson and seemingly towered over her as he berated her before abruptly ended the meeting, according to allegations.

Stewart disputed that account, telling law enforcement he was more than 2 feet away from the reporter and alleged Knutson was interrupting the meeting, according to court documents.

Both Stewart and Siats resigned after the incident, with Stewart stating in a November letter he would "no longer put up with harassment from the general public and news media," the Northern Light reported.

Knutson said she began covering Roosevelt about a year ago after hearing rumors of dysfunction. She questioned the council during the October meeting about the legality of a special meeting held without notice in September before Siats yelled at her.

Knutson told the Herald Monday there were several witnesses at the meeting who saw what unfolded, including recently elected Roosevelt Mayor Gerald Landby. He said in court documents Stewart approached Knutson "like a grizzly bear would do a bluff charge."

"He (Stewart) acted in a very threatening manner to a member of the press at a public meeting with others present," Knutson said. "I don't know what more probable cause there needs to be."

When asked Monday at the Roseau County Courthouse if he wanted to comment on the case, Stewart said, "Absolutely not."

Fish said he plans to file a brief regarding the dismissal motion in three weeks, and the Roseau County Attorney's Office said it could file its own brief in two weeks.

District Judge Donna Dixon said she plans to take the motion under advisement on Feb. 14.

The misdemeanor carries a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

(701) 780-1248