Grand Forks man sentenced after February incident when he crashed a stolen vehicle, broke into couple's home

He will serve 15 years in prison followed by three years of supervised probation.

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GRAND FORKS – A Grand Forks man convicted of armed robbery and burglary, among other crimes, was sentenced in court on Monday, Dec. 5.

Joseph Martin Espinoza, 38, pleaded guilty to Class A felony of armed robbery, Class B felony of armed burglary, Class B felony of attempted theft between $10,000 and $50,000, Class C felony of terrorizing with a dangerous weapon, Class C felony of criminal mischief and Class B misdemeanor of driving under suspension in October.

His remaining charges are two Class C felony charges for theft of a firearm and reckless endangerment, as well as two class B misdemeanors for reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident. All were dismissed.

All of Espinoza’s sentences will be served concurrently, for a total of 15 years in prison. He has credit for time served from March 1. He owes $1,025 in fines. Following his release, Espinoza will be on supervised probation for three years.

Espinoza was granted a suspended sentence in his other case and will serve no additional time for motor vehicle theft. He owes $7,856.84 in restitution for totaling the vehicle.


Judge Jason McCarthy told Espinoza to thank his attorney — Matthew Stephen Dearth — after the hearing.

"If it wasn't for him," McCarthy said, "you'd be getting at least 30 years."

During the sentencing hearing, the state’s attorney Megan Jo Kvasager Essig outlined Espinoza’s criminal history which includes drug charges and violent offenses.

“His choices are poor, and they are repeated,” said one of the victims in her impact statement.

Espinoza made a statement in the hearing, apologizing to the victims and officers involved.

“That day my addiction took over me,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza crashed a stolen vehicle and attempted to break into a house on Feb. 7. He was on drugs at the time, according to Essig.

According to court statements during the sentencing, Espinoza told the couple, “Give me the keys or I’m gonna hurt somebody. I don’t want to, but I will.”


Though they resisted at first, the couple eventually gave him the keys. However, he came back inside saying, “Now I want the gun.”

Espinoza got into a physical altercation with the two homeowners and was able to take their gun.

Espinoza left the house and entered the homeowners’ vehicle when members of the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office arrived. Espinoza refused to drop the stolen gun and approached two officers. The officers shot at him, hitting him at least once in the leg.

During the sentence, a video was played which showed this altercation.

According to court statements, Espinoza threatened to kill the officers after they shot him.

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Sav Kelly joined the Grand Forks Herald in August 2022.

Kelly covers public safety, including local crime and the courts system.

Readers can reach Kelly at (701) 780-1102 or
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