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Duluth exercise ball slasher back in jail for probation violations

DULUTH - The ball slasher is in trouble again. Christopher Neil Bjerkness, 32, is in the St. Louis County Jail, accused of violating terms of probation two months after being released from the Northeast Regional Corrections Center and being sent ...

Christopher Bjerkness
Christopher Neil Bjerkness

DULUTH - The ball slasher is in trouble again.

Christopher Neil Bjerkness, 32, is in the St. Louis County Jail, accused of violating terms of probation two months after being released from the Northeast Regional Corrections Center and being sent to a halfway house. Bjerkness was convicted in September of third-degree burglary for breaking into the SMDC West building, 4212 Grand Ave., and slashing exercise balls with a sharp knife.

In a hearing Thursday with Judge Eric Hylden, Bjerkness denied violating terms of his probation. Hylden granted his request for a public defender and ordered that he be jailed until a probation violation hearing, which is scheduled for July 14. A warrant for Bjerkness' arrest had been issued Wednesday at the recommendation of his probation officer.

According to Leslie Beiers, head of the criminal division of the St. Louis County Attorney's Office, Bjerkness is charged with violating four of the conditions of his probation.

- He left the halfway house without permission.

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- He failed to abide by the rules of the halfway house.

- He failed to take prescribed medication.

- He tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Bjerkness has a history of going after exercise balls with a knife, something he has described as a fetish to satisfy sexual urges.

In 2005, he was convicted of first-degree criminal damage to property after getting into the Sports and Health Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth on several occasions and damaging exercise balls. He also admitted at the time to damaging exercise balls at the SMDC Center for Personal Fitness, the Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center and St. Luke's hospital, according to criminal complaints.

As part of his probation in 2005, he was ordered to undergo psychological counseling, but he left his therapy group in April 2008, according to the criminal complaint. The psychologist said Bjerkness was not attempting to get better.

The break-in of the SMDC West building occurred May 30, 2009. Bjerkness originally was charged with second- and third-degree burglary. As part of a plea agreement, Bjerkness pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary on Aug. 12. The second-degree charge was dropped.

Judge Mark Munger sentenced Bjerkness on Sept. 2 to a year at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center, with credit for time served. The sentence included a sex-offender treatment program.

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During the hearing, Munger told Bjerkness he could face a civil commitment process if he didn't change his ways. Sexual psychopaths can be civilly committed beyond a prison sentence if the court determines they pose a risk to the public.

The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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