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One pleads guilty in Grand Forks robbery case that led to shots fired, standoff

A 19-year-old will spend more than 2 years in prison for his role in a robbery that led to shots fired and a standoff in Grand Forks last year, and his co-defendant is expected to change his plea.

Joe Louis Melvin of Grand Forks pleaded guilty Thursday in Grand Forks District Court to conspiracy to commit reckless endangerment with extreme indifference, a Class C felony, in exchange for a plea deal that dismissed a Class A felony charge of conspiracy to commit robbery with a firearm. He was sentenced to 60 months in prison, but 30 months will be suspended for two years if he complies with the conditions of his unsupervised probation for two years.

He also agreed to testify against his co-defendant, 19-year-old Faha Abdirashid Hussein of Grand Forks, should the latter's case go to trial. Hussein was set to appear Thursday in court, but his hearing was canceled and a change of plea hearing has been scheduled for April 23.

The two were both charged Sept. 11 with conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit reckless endangerment after officers responded at 12:29 a.m. Sept. 10 to a report of shots fired at an undisclosed address. The victim, Skylar Deibert, told officers two men entered his home, took about $580 in cash and fired two gunshots, according to court documents. One of the men fired two more gunshots at Deibert when he followed them outside, the court documents said.

Hussein and Melvin surrendered to officers and were detained that afternoon at 1102 N. 39th St. after a brief standoff.

Hussein also was charged Sept. 14 with a Class B felony of robbery with a firearm and terrorizing a child, a Class C felony, in relation to a Sept. 8 robbery at Red River High School. A 15-year-old male said he got into a Ford Taurus and Hussein was sitting in the front passenger seat, according to court documents. The juvenile told officers he was going to smoke marijuana with Hussein when the defendant pulled out a handgun and put it to the juvenile's head, telling him to get out of the car, according to court documents.

Hussein also has a change of plea hearing in that case set for April 23.

Melvin, who was credited 76 days for time served, requested his report date to be delayed until March 16 so he would have time to say goodbye to his family.

Judge John Thelen said Melvin was "pretty young" for someone being incarcerated at the North Dakota State Penitentiary, but the judge was impressed by how Melvin presented himself in court. Thelen said Melvin has the skills and talents to turn his life around in the right direction instead of the path he was headed down.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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