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Accused bandit's attorney seeks to suppress evidence

The attorney for a man charged in a string of Grand Forks area robberies argued in court Thursday that police officers unlawfully arrested his client and violated his right to speak with a lawyer.

The attorney for a man charged in a string of Grand Forks area robberies argued in court Thursday that police officers unlawfully arrested his client and violated his right to speak with a lawyer.

Public defender Dan Borgen wants a judge to throw out an interview in which, police say, 23-year-old Kyle Pederson admitted to robbing six businesses in Grand Forks, one in East Grand Forks and one in Mayville, N.D., between Dec. 9 and Dec. 21.

Prosecutor David Jones called Grand Forks Police Sgt. Dwight Love to testify at Thursday's hearing. Love told the court that a confidential informant told police Pederson was in Room 117 of the Budget Inn Express in Grand Forks the night of Dec. 22.

Love, who heads the regional SWAT team, testified that he led a four-officer team to the door of Pederson's room. He said he found the door ajar about 4 inches. In knocking on the door, it swung open another foot. Love announced himself, "Police department. Come out. Show me your hands."

Pederson then stepped out of the bathroom, ducked back into the bathroom and seconds later came out with his hands up, Love testified.


Without a warrant to come in the room, Love said, he sought consent from Pederson to enter: "First, before I ordered him to the ground, I asked, 'Hey, can we come inside and talk to you?' and he said, 'Yes.'"

During cross-examination, Love testified that he and other members of the entry team had their guns pointed at Pederson while Love asked if officers could come in.

Borgen argued that no "reasonable person" would tell a group of officers with guns trained on him that they could not come in the room.

"He consented at gunpoint," Borgen said. "The consent is not voluntary."

Detective Travis Benson, who led the investigation into the robberies, testified that police had information motivating them to arrest Pederson as soon as possible.

He testified that police had learned from the confidential informant that Pederson was using an increasing amount of prescription drugs, was robbing stores to get money to obtain those drugs and was becoming more and more agitated.

Benson said the informant also told police that Pederson, who allegedly used a BB handgun to commit the holdups, was trying to get a real shotgun.

"With the fear in the public, we didn't want this to continue," Benson said. "The likelihood of somebody getting hurt or killed was significantly higher, so we felt there was a lot of immediacy."


Following Pederson's arrest at the motel, he was taken to the police station to be interviewed. According to prosecutors, about 10 to 15 minutes into the interview that lasted 60 to 90 minutes, Pederson told his interrogators: "You're gonna sit there and beat this up. I mean, I'm getting a lawyer then or something."

Borgen contended that police should have stopped the interview at that point.

Benson, who interviewed Pederson along with others, disagreed.

"There was no request for an attorney. There was no request or demand to stop questioning. He continued talking for several seconds after even saying the word 'attorney' or 'lawyer,' whichever it was," Benson said.

After the 'lawyer' comment, Benson said, Pederson was asked if he wanted to keep talking with investigators. "Yeah, sure, I got nothing to hide," Pederson told police, according to prosecutors.

In the next half hour to 45 minutes, Pederson admitted to the robberies, prosecutor Jones said out of court.

Judge Lawrence Jahnke of state District Court said he would review the evidence in the case, particularly a recording of Pederson's interview, before making a decision.

Pederson, who has pleaded not guilty to all counts, remains in custody at the Grand Forks County jail.


In North Dakota, the maximum penalty on each of the robbery charges against him is 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In Minnesota, he faces a charge of first-degree aggravated robbery, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.

Ingersoll reports on crime and courts. Reach him at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to aingersoll@gfherald.com .

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