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McKenzie County deputies facing charges reassigned

WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- Two McKenzie County deputies who are facing criminal charges have been reassigned to administrative duties while their cases play out in court.

McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger said he removed Detective Michael Schmitz and Corporal Travis Bateman from their normal roles after the two were charged in unrelated incidents earlier this year.

Schmitz is charged with two misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement during a state investigation in January, while Bateman was charged this month with reckless endangerment, a felony, for allegedly causing a speeding motorcyclist to crash into his patrol car during the summer.

Schwartzenberger is also facing legal troubles of his own, and will likely go to trial next year on a misdemeanor charge of misapplication of entrusted property for alleged unauthorized charges he made on a county credit card during a trip to a law enforcement conference in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, he is continuing in his first year as sheriff after winning an election.

Pursuit ends in crash

According to court records, Bateman is to appear at a hearing Feb. 8 in McKenzie County. Judge William Herauf of the Southwest Judicial District was assigned to the case after judges in the Northwest District recused themselves to avoid possible ethical conflicts. Divide County State’s Attorney Seymour Jordan will serve as prosecutor.

Bateman is accused of reckless endangerment, a Class C felony that carries up to five years in prison. The charge was filed earlier this month.

A report from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation says on Aug. 31, he intentionally drove head-on toward a speeding motorcyclist who was allegedly fleeing from a state trooper on Highway 85 near Watford City.

When the motorcyclist tried to avoid a collision, Bateman turned his patrol car in the same direction, resulting in a crash that threw both the rider and his passenger off of the Harley-Davidson, court records say.

Trial bumped to spring

Schmitz was scheduled to stand trial Jan. 11 on two Class A misdemeanor allegations relating toconversations he had in January with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. He is accused of lying to an agent about his prescription drug use, and about his role in a divorce case.

The trial is now set for May 11 in McKenzie County in front of Williams County Judge Joshua Rustad. Jordan, of Divide County, will serve as prosecutor.

Schmitz was allegedly untruthful and uncooperative with BCI agents as they tried to gauge his use of pills and question him about a woman’s claims that he’d followed her and photographed her.

Request for trial

Schwartzenberger could face up to a year in prison if convicted of misapplication of entrusted property, a Class A misdemeanor for allegedly making about $980 in unauthorized charges to the sheriff’s office credit card on a trip to the Western States Sheriff’s Association Annual Conference in March. Charges included a plane ticket for his wife, her conference registration fee, a rental car upgrade, a golf outing and a meal at a casino. The sheriff has since paid the money back, records say.

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