Two felony charges against a Grand Forks contractor accused of construction fraud were dismissed in a preliminary hearing Friday, June 11, after a judge decided there was not enough information in the charging documents to establish probable cause. Prosecutors will still have the option to re-file the charges with additional charging information.
Nicholas DeRosier, 33, is still facing four misdemeanor charges: issuing a check without an account, contracting without a license, disobedience of a judicial order and forgery. One charge each of felony theft and felony construction fraud were dismissed after the state failed to demonstrate probable cause that he committed those crimes. An additional felony charge of issuing a check without an account was dismissed in May.
DeRosier is accused of failing to fulfill the terms of his contracts with multiple clients, but the preliminary hearing was complicated somewhat when the state's witness, Grand Forks Police Detective Caitlin Stromberg, who took the case over from another Grand Forks detective who left the force, was unable to testify to the terms of those contracts.
Judge John Thelen said that without seeing the contracts or the investigation reports, and without knowing the terms of the contracts, he didn't believe charging documents contained enough information to continue prosecuting DeRosier's alleged crimes.
"What we really should be doing is having a more detailed charge so that I can understand what the elements are to the charge and determine whether or not the state is meeting the burden of proof as to those elements," Thelen said. "We've been doing this for about an hour, and I'm completely confused as to these counts."
Thelen said the state will have the option to re-file the charges with more detailed information about the elements of the charge. In the meantime, court proceedings in the case will continue as normal.
The charges that have not been dismissed stem in part from allegations that DeRosier disobeyed a subpoena in a civil case brought forward by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. As a result, DeRosier was banned from doing business in the state of North Dakota by a court order.
DeRosier is the principal of Team Lawn and Vaughn Construction. In total, DeRosier or his companies are involved in 16 civil cases in North Dakota, all of which are in Grand Forks County.
He is next scheduled to appear for a final dispositional conference on Aug. 19.