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Brossarts in court after long standoff

LAKOTA, N.D. -- Rodney Brossart and four of his children, handcuffed and clad in jail orange, appeared Monday in state district court here on felony bail-jumping charges stemming from a confrontation with law enforcement in late June at their farm.

Abby Brossart

LAKOTA, N.D. -- Rodney Brossart and four of his children, handcuffed and clad in jail orange, appeared Monday in state district court here on felony bail-jumping charges stemming from a confrontation with law enforcement in late June at their farm.

Brossart, 55, his daughter Abby Brossart, 29, and sons Alex, 26, Thomas, 24, and Jacob, 21, were arrested Sunday by Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke and his three deputies.

Bail jumping is a Class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The arrest ended, for now, a three-month standoff of sorts as the family refused to appear for court hearings since July for charges from the June incident.

Susan Brossart, 54, Rodney's wife, also appeared Monday on a misdemeanor charge of lying to law enforcement officers over whether there were more guns in her home during a search last summer.

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She was released after her appearance. Abby Brossart was bailed out by Monday evening. The others remained in jail Monday night in Devils Lake facing added bail.

In another twist to this unusual case, brothers Jacob and Thomas Brossart were being bonded out shortly before 8 p.m. by their mother on new bail bonds set Monday until Janke learned of it and informed the jail their previous bonds of $25,000 had been revoked Monday.

Janke said jail officials were returning Susan's money and keeping the brothers in jail.

Bond revoked

Judge Joel Medd scheduled all six to appear next in court Dec. 30, and set bail at $100,000 cash-only for Rodney Brossart, citing his previous failures to appear for hearings and the threats of violence alleged by deputies at his arrest.

Susan first will appear Dec. 5 for a pre-trial review of her case.

The three brothers were each given bonds of $5,000 cash or surety for the bail jumping charges.

Abby Brossart was given two $1,000 bonds, cash or surety, on the bail jumping charge and a previous misdemeanor charge of harassment for calling 911 and allegedly falsely accusing deputies of threatening her younger siblings, who are 14, 10 and 9.

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She argued to Judge Medd Monday that she was "scared for my life and for the safety of my siblings" after deputies pointed guns at their heads. She told the Herald last month that her siblings' account was credible because of the details they gave about the guns.

Meanwhile, the Devils Lake bail bond company through which the Brossarts posted bond this summer filed notice Monday that it was revoking the bonds, court officials said.

Paul Frith, an agent with Sun Surety Insurance Co. in Devils Lake, said bond revocation normally happens when defendants fail to show up for court dates. "They

didn't keep their end of the deal."

Bail for Rodney was $55,000 and a total of $75,000 for Thomas, Jacob and Alex this summer, Frith said.

The revocation means the four likely will need to come up with that entire amount in cash.

Prior charges

Rodney Brossart was charged this summer with terrorizing and theft, both Class C felonies, after the June 23 confrontation at his farm, in which he allegedly threatened deputies trying to find the neighbor's cattle and urged his sons to get guns out of a nearby pickup.

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He also was charged with criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor, for allegedly doing more than $1,000 of damage to a squad car after his arrest.

His sons were charged with terrorizing for allegedly pointing guns at deputies. They each posted bond of $25,000 this past summer after making initial appearances.

Abby Brossart was charged with simple assault of a deputy during the arrest of Rodney, a Class C felony. She posted bond of $5,000.

But none of the Brossarts would appear in court again until Monday despite promising to do so. Bench warrants ordering their immediate arrest were issued Sept. 12; the bail-jumping charges were added a month later.

Peaceful resolution

Sheriff Janke said he preferred to negotiate a peaceful resolution without any threat of violence. The family reportedly didn't leave their farmstead several miles southeast of Lakota the past two to three months and mostly ignored Janke's attempts to bring them in, talk or even contact them.

Janke said his department monitored the family closely during that time. A tip Sunday that Rodney Brossart was disking a field led to his arrest.

He and his son, Jacob, refused Janke's commands to exit a tractor cab in a field about two miles from their farm. Janke and a deputy had to climb into the cab and remove the two men, although Janke said the Brossarts did not struggle with them.

After several hours of negotiation, the other three facing bench warrants surrendered.

Susan Brossart was not arrested, and showed up in court on her own Monday.

'Ridiculous' bail

Brossart told Judge Medd on Monday that the $100,000 cash-only bail requested by Nelson County State's Attorney Doug Manbeck in the bail jumping charge was "ridiculous."

"I operate a business, a farm," Brossart said several times during his hearing. "I'm asking for leniency of bail because of my farming operation."

He said he has a contracting company scheduled to complete construction this week of a new farm building, and if he's not there to direct the work, the building may not get done correctly. He also has crops in the field that need to be harvested, he said.

"I'm not unsympathetic," Medd said, but told Brossart his history of not appearing for court hearings and the alleged threats of violence justify the $100,000 bail.

After the hearing, Susan Brossart said the family had contacted a custom harvester to finish taking off the soybeans and corn.

She said she didn't know if her husband and four children would bail out.

'Tasered 10 times'

Rodney told Medd he had been "Tasered 10 times, in the chest, while standing in a mud hole," during his June arrest. "They had to take me by ambulance to Mercy Hospital (in Devils Lake) because the oxygen level in my blood was so low from being Tasered."

After Monday's hearing, Sheriff Janke said his deputy, Sgt. Eric Braathen, did Taser Brossart several times during the June 23 arrest, but that he followed proper training.

Brossart continued to resist Braathen's commands to comply, and in some cases, rolled away from Braathen, cutting the electric lines to the Taser so no current could flow. Brossart requested medical attention after his arrest, Janke said. "A physician cleared him to go to jail that night."

Raising bail

Brossart may be able to raise enough money to get himself and his children out of jail.

In July, he transferred 160 acres of farmland to his mother, Antonia Brossart, who then signed a warranty deed on the land over to Sun Surety to cover their initial bonds. Antonia attended the hearing Monday.

Frith, the Sun Surety agent, said he's not interested in selling the land but hopes to work out a deal with the Brossarts to get the $140,000 they owe him, so he can transfer the land back to them.

If the bond company isn't repaid, the land can be sold and any extra over what the Brossarts owe the bond company would be returned, a court official said.

If the Brossarts cannot find another bond company to represent them in the case, they would collectively owe about $250,000 in cash bail. Rodney Brossart would face a total of $155,000 in cash bail and each of his sons would face $30,000 in bail.

Last summer, Susan Brossart bailed her daughter out by paying her $5,000 bond. Abby Brossart needed to come up with $2,000 on Monday to pay the bonds added at the hearing.

According to court records, Rodney and Susan Brossart still own about 3,500 acres surrounding their farmstead. Information about whether the land is paid off wasn't available Monday.

The family also has about 35 head of cattle.

Legal help

Medd said he planned to have all six Brossarts face their preliminary hearings or arraignments on all the charges at the Dec. 30 hearing. The judge urged them to obtain attorneys and said they could apply for court-appointed ones, although Rodney asked if he had the right to represent himself.

Several times during Monday's hearing, he told Medd, "I object," to various issues being discussed.

Abby Brossart, who last year taught in a Catholic elementary school in Rugby, N.D., did apply for a court-appointed attorney this summer, according to court documents, listing an income of about $2,000 a month and $7,000 in savings. Her application was denied because her income was above the required eligibility of 125 percent of the official poverty level.

She has been a key legal adviser to her father and brothers, it's clear from conversations with the family and court documents as well as what was said in court Monday.

Family members have filed many letters with the court over the past few months, including hand-written waivers of their preliminary hearings on the initial charges.

Abby took the blame for family members not showing up for their scheduled arraignments.

"I misinterpreted that," she told Judge Medd, explaining she was not aware that written waivers of a preliminary hearing did not absolve them of the responsibility to show up on that same date for the alternate arraignment normally scheduled for the same time.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send email to slee@gfherald.com

Related Topics: CATTLENELSON COUNTY
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