North Dakota lawmaker quits after child porn suspect texts


BISMARCK, ND (AP) — North Dakota’s longest-serving state senator announced Monday that he would resign following a report that he had traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges.

Republican Ray Holmberg, who rose to become one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers in a career that spanned 46 years, said he would resign effective June. 1. His term was scheduled to end on Nov. 30 and he had already announced in November that it would be his last.

“Recent news stories have become a distraction for the important work of the assembly during its interim meetings,” Holmberg, 79, said in a statement announcing his resignation. “I want to do what I can, within my power, to lessen such distractions.”

He not immediately return messages from The Associated Press.

GOP Gov. Doug Burgam said in a statement he “supports Sen. Holmberg’s decision to resign.” He did not elaborate.

Republican leaders did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Days after the published report about his text messages, Holmberg had announced that he would step down as head of a powerful panel that oversees the Legislature’s business between sessions.

The Forum of Fargo reported April 15 that Holmberg exchanged 72 text messages in August with Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier. Prosecutors allege Morgan-Derosier possessed several thousand images and videos depicting sexually abused children. He also is accused of taking two children under the age of 10 from Minnesota to his Grand Forks home, with the intent of sexually abusing them.

When he announced on April 20 that he was quitting his leadership post on the Management Committee, he had referred questions from the AP to his attorneys.

Holmberg first told the Forum that he had read a newspaper story about the charges, then in a later interview said he had not, the Forum reported.

He told the Forum that his text messages with Morgan-Derosier were related to “a variety of things,” including patio work Morgan-Derosier did for him. He also told the newspaper that he no longer has the text messages.

“They’re just gone,” he said.

Democratic Party Chairman Patrick Hart had called for Holmberg to step down from Legislative Management and to release the text messages.

Holmberg has been one of the Legislature’s most powerful lawmakers for decades, serving as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He chaired the Legislative Management committee, which decides committee assignments and chooses study topics that often inspire legislation, four times.

He also sat on the state’s Emergency Commission, which allocates funding and resources in times of an emergency, and served on or chaired several GOP-led redistricting committees.

When he announced in March that this would be his last term, he said the stress of a session and a campaign would “only exacerbate a weakened ability to concentrate on the matters at hand and effectively recall events.”

Many North Dakota Republicans, including Burgum, showered Holmberg with accolades at the time.

Holmberg will remain on the Legislature’s state-funded health insurance plan through July, a benefit that is worth about $1,425 monthly.

Lawmakers are paid $526 a month and $189 a day during a session or if they meet for a committee hearing. Legislative majority and minority leaders and the chairs of Legislative Management are paid an additional $377 monthly. Holmberg and other committee leaders also are paid an additional $10 daily during a session and $5 daily for an interim committee meeting.

Holmberg will be paid through May.



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