|
|
Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Grand Forks attorney, Howe, cleared on tampering charge

  • The attorney for a North Dakota lawyer once accused of conspiring to kill a confidential informant said Friday that officials with a Grand Forks narcotics task force wanted to get even with his client for his zealous defense of drug cases.
    • email print
  • The attorney for a North Dakota lawyer once accused of conspiring to kill a confidential informant said Friday that officials with a Grand Forks narcotics task force wanted to get even with his client for his zealous defense of drug cases.
    A state judge on Friday dismissed the case against Henry Howe, 73, a longtime criminal defense attorney in Grand Forks. Howe originally was charged with murder conspiracy. That was later amended to a charge of tampering with a witness or informant.
    Howe's lawyer, David Thompson, told The Associated Press that investigators from the task force based their case on lies from a career criminal because they don't like Howe. Thompson said the key witness against Howe, Steven Anderson, has been charged in 27 criminal cases in North Dakota and Minnesota, including theft, deception and fleeing from justice.
    "It is clear to me that one of the reasons that the task force was blind and deaf to the obvious reality when it came to Steven Harold Anderson is because they had a vendetta against Henry Howe," Thompson said. "Henry was an effective force in defending people who were charged with serious crimes."
    A spokesman with the Grand Forks Area Narcotics Task Force referred questions to the state attorney general's office. Deputy Attorney General Tom Trenbeath said he had no comment on Thompson's claim "because we have complete confidence in the task force."
    The complaint accused Howe and his clients at the time, Paul Lysengen and Wesley Smith, of plotting to kill a potential witness against Lysengen. Investigators say Howe can be heard on a secret recording saying that the case against Lysengen would "collapse like a house of cards" if the witness disappeared.
    Walsh County prosecutor Barbara Whelan said in an announcement dropping the charge that new evidence came to light regarding a material witness who was a source of "some of the evidence" implicating Howe. Her announcement said there are no plans to dismiss witness tampering charges against Lysengen or Smith.
    Thompson said the evidence came from Anderson.
    "There are numerous reasons why alarm bells should have gone off for the prosecution in this case," he said.
    Whelan said she could not comment beyond the press release because the case on Lysengen and Smith remains open.
    Court documents filed by Thompson assert that Anderson has been called into question for lying to police. He made up a murder-for-hire plot in Becker County, Minnesota, in 2003, and falsely claimed a fellow inmate in a Nebraska jail wanted to hire a hit man in 2004, the defense document said.
    A disciplinary board of the state Supreme Court suspended Howe's license in January. Thompson said Howe wants to return to work.
    "He doesn't want to retire. Practicing law is his life," Thompson said. "Henry is doing a lot better than I would be doing under the circumstances. This was a thunderbolt that came out of nowhere. He was devastated."
    Page 2 of 2 -
      • calendar