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Board: Inmate's testimony in Gibbs' case didn't affect parole

BISMARCK -- A man who testified against Mo Maurice Gibbs in Gibbs' first murder trial will be paroled in May from the State Penitentiary to a halfway house, but the release is not related to his testimony, a Parole Board clerk said.

Jeremy Leopold, 30, is serving a prison sentence on two counts of forgery as a result of a probation revocation.

Without parole, his prison release date would be Feb. 16, 2010.

He must stay in a halfway house a minimum of six months before going out on his own, Assistant Parole Board Clerk Pat Bohn said.

The state Parole Board met Sunday and Monday in Bismarck.

Leopold's role in the Gibbs trial wasn't a factor in the board's discussion, Bohn said Tuesday. "None. It didn't come into play one iota," he said.

Gibbs was convicted in October of murdering Mindy Morgenstern, a Valley City State University student originally from New Salem.

The conviction came in a second trial, held in Bismarck. The first, held in Minot last summer, had ended with a hung jury.

Leopold testified at the Minot trial that while he and Gibbs were housed in the same Cass County jail pod in December 2006, and shared a common dayroom, he heard Gibbs say, "I'd do it again," while watching a television news report saying his trial would be moved to Minot.

Leopold also testified that he would not seek anything in return for his testimony but apparently later changed his mind and wrote to Barnes County State's Attorney Brad Cruff seeking his assistance.

Cruff said this week that he never responded to Leopold's letter.

Prosecutors did not call Leopold for testimony in the second trial, believing he was no help to their case.

"When we polled the (Minot) jurors...basically, we had one of the 12 who found him to be credible," Cruff said Monday.

At the Minot trial, Gibbs' attorneys attacked Leopold's believability, citing his numerous criminal convictions, including ones for theft, forgery and providing false information to law enforcement.

Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.