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Delay in pleas for Lakota family in prolonged standoff

GRAND FORKS (AP) -- A Nelson County farm family that was involved in a prolonged standoff with authorities has hired attorneys and delayed making pleas on an assortment of charges against them.

The six Brossart family members, who farm near Lakota in northeastern North Dakota, had been scheduled for arraignment Friday. However, newly hired defense lawyers obtained a 30-day delay in the proceedings.

The Brossarts did not have attorneys in previous court appearances. Doug Manbeck, the Nelson County state's attorney, said the Brossarts are not likely to enter pleas on the charges against them until March.

The standoff began when the Nelson County sheriff, Kelly Janke, went onto the Brossarts' land June 23 with a search warrant to look for six missing cows. He said he left after he was confronted by three men brandishing rifles.

An assortment of law officers and an unarmed Predator drone, owned by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and based at the nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base, were summoned to deal with the problem. Missile-firing Predators have been extensively used for strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Authorities used images from the Predator the next day to find the location of the three Brossart brothers on the farm, and to determine that they were unarmed. Police then moved in to arrest them.

The family's husband and wife have different lawyers. Fargo attorney Bruce Quick is representing Rodney Brossart, while his wife, Susan, is represented by another Fargo lawyer, Ross Brandborg. Brandborg is also representing the couple's daughter, Abby, and their three sons, Jacob, Thomas and Alex.

The four men all face felony charges of terrorizing and skipping bail, which carry potential sentences of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Abby Brossart is charged with skipping bail, felony assault and misdemeanor harassment, while Susan Brossart is charged with making a false report to law enforcement, which is a misdemeanor.

Rodney Brossart is also charged with felony theft and misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief, preventing arrest and failing to return cattle that wandered onto his property.

Brandborg declined comment Friday. Quick said he had been hired less than a week ago and was familiarizing himself with the case, including authorities' use of the Predator drone.

Using Predators for surveillance on civilians "is a bad idea, regardless of whether I'm a defense attorney in this case or any other," Quick said. "It's a bad idea."