Attorneys for suspended Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski are asking a state judge to dismiss criminal charges against him.

Attorneys for suspended Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski are asking a state judge to dismiss criminal charges against him.

Kukowski faces trial in early January on misdemeanor charges of refusing to perform a public duty and reckless endangerment in the October 2014 death of jail inmate Dustin Irwin.

Kukowski maintains he did nothing wrong. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

Irwin died at a hospital after going into cardiac arrest. The state Corrections Department investigated and determined that jail officials had failed to give Irwin proper supervision or medical treatment. Kukowski was charged in February.

His attorneys say in their motion to dismiss that the sheriff is not solely responsible for duties he is alleged to have neglected, the Minot Daily News reported.

The "sheriff's general obligation of keeping and maintaining the county jail is shared" with Ward County commissioners and the North Dakota Department of Corrections, defense attorneys said.

They also said the same Corrections officials who accuse Kukowski of wrongdoing had earlier given him advice on matters such as jail overpopulation.

A hearing is scheduled Dec. 23. Gov. Jack Dalrymple suspended Kukowski in June while the criminal case proceeds. The county is continuing to pay his $9,400 monthly salary.