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Former North Dakota cop gets suspended sentence in corruption of minor case

Jeremy Curran, from left, and Kevin Chapman, speak with their client, Bryton Dahl, right, after his sentencing hearing Monday, March 4, 2019. Dahl, who was convicted in November of corruption or solicitation of a minor, got a suspended sentence and was scheduled to be released from the Williams County jail Monday. Jamie Kelly / Williston Herald

WILLISTON, N.D. - A judge gave a former police officer and substitute teacher convicted of having a sexual relationship with an underage boy a suspended sentence Monday, March 4.

Northwest District Judge Benjamen Johnson sentenced Bryton Dahl, 24, to three years in prison, with all but the 123 days he spent in jail awaiting sentencing suspended. Dahl will have to serve three years of supervised probation, including registering as a sex offender.

Dahl was convicted in November of corruption or solicitation of a minor, a class C felony. He had been charged in August 2017 with having sexual contact with a then 16-year-old boy. He has maintained he is innocent of the charges, and continued to do so during Monday’s sentencing hearing.

Dahl worked as a Williston police officer from November 2015 until March 2017. From March 2017 until June 2017, he was a McKenzie County Sheriff’s deputy. He also worked as a substitute teacher at Williston Public School District No. 1.

During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Johnson said he found that Dahl did not directly abuse his role as a police officer, saying there wasn’t any testimony Dahl used his position to coerce anyone.

“I don’t think there was a direct abuse of a position of public trust,” Johnson said, though he did say that because of Dahl’s position, he should have known what he was doing was wrong.

The young man, who is now 18, testified during the trial last year that he met Dahl through the dating app Tinder, and that they talked for several months before meeting and several months after that before the relationship because physical.

During the trial, Kevin Chapman, one of Dahl’s defense attorneys, attacked the young man’s credibility and said while the two had been friends, there had never been any sexual contact.

Nathan Madden, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, argued Monday that Dahl’s position as a police officer was relevant. He pointed out that at one point in time, Dahl was among a group of officers who picked up the young man and several other teenagers for a curfew violation.

Madden also pointed out that after the teen told Dahl he didn’t want to see him, Dahl came to the young man’s house in uniform to take a statement about a stolen ATV.

“That is flat out making use of and abusing a position of power, your honor,” Madden told Johnson.

The young man Dahl was convicted of having sexual contact with spoke briefly at Monday’s hearing. He addressed his comments to Dahl, saying that while Dahl and his attorney had accused him of lying, Dahl was the one who had lied.

“You also said you aren’t friends with minors, but you know that’s not true,” he said.

When going over the factors he considered in giving his sentence, Johnson said the fact Dahl had no criminal record was in his favor.

“The fact I’m giving the most weight to is the lack of criminal history,” Johnson said.

After the hearing, Chapman said Dahl does still maintain his innocence, and that he was going to have discussions about whether to appeal the conviction.