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New Town man convicted of 17 crimes

A 22-year-old New Town man was convicted of 17 crimes Wednesday in a federal court, seven of which involved sexual abuse, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon.

Following a six-day jury trial, Dustin Morsette was found guilty in U.S. District Court by a federal jury of charges involving sex trafficking, sexual abuse, drug trafficking and witness tampering Tuesday, according to the statement.

"He has been detained since July of 2010," said Paul Myerchin, Morsette's attorney. "I can tell you that sentencing is set up for July 30 and that's the next phase in this criminal case and that's what we're going to prepare for."

Morsette is incarcerated at the Burleigh County Detention Center, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Five females were victims of sexual abuse by Morsette, four of whom were under the age of 16, according to Purdon's statement.

He used physical force and coercion to cause the other victim, who he had recruited as a gang member, to engage in prostitution on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and in Williston and Minot. After his arrest, Morsette attempted to influence her testimony to prevent communication about the sexual abuse and prostitution to law enforcement, according to the statement.

In 2009, Morsette and another person conspired to distribute marijuana in and around the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. As part of this conspiracy, Morsette recruited minors and young adults to be part of a gang he described as the Black Disciples, according to the statement.

Gang members were required to distribute marijuana for Morsette. He used force and threats to coerce gang members into engaging in sexual acts with him. Morsette also engaged in a sexual act with a minor who was physically incapable of consenting because of her consumption of alcohol and drugs, according to the statement.

Morsette and three others were charged with 21 counts for the crimes.

Some of those charged in the case testified against Morsette during the trial, according to Purdon's statement.

"Count 15 was dismissed during the course of the trial," Myerchin said.

The dismissed charge was attempted sexual abuse of a minor, according to the indictment.

Medicine Bird Morsette, Francene Kelly Azure and Dakota Jore pleaded guilty in exchange for plea agreements, said Kari Knudson, chief deputy clerk for the U.S. District Court.

"Those three defendants are all awaiting sentencing right now," she said.

Jore is the only defendant in the case who has been released from jail, Knudson added.

Purdon and Myerchin declined further comment due to pending sentencing.

"It would be inappropriate for me at this point in time without there being a criminal judgment that's come down," Myerchin said.

Darianne Johnson, executive director of the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center in Dickinson said victims of sex crimes should contact someone for help immediately.

"Many times victims of sexual assault think it's their fault and then they don't talk to anyone until it starts to destroy their life," she said. "Just reach out for help, whether it's to us, to a pastor to a teacher or really anybody in authority who can do something to help you."