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Charge dismissed against Bismarck political candidate Sand

BISMARCK — Bismarck political opponents who filed police reports against one another over campaign ads during a hotly contested primary race have reached a compromise and neither will face criminal charges.

Burleigh County prosecutors have dismissed a misdemeanor charge of publication of false information in political advertisements against Duane Sand, a Republican who challenged two Republican incumbents for District 47 House.

Sand's opponent, Rep. George Keiser, filed a police report ahead of the election alleging that a statement in a Sand campaign mailer about Keiser's voting record violated state law.

Sand said the statement was a mistake and he later ran an apology ad.

After the election, Sand filed a separate police report alleging Keiser and others violated the same law through ads Sand called a "smear campaign."

Karlei Neufeld, assistant state's attorney, said in an email Tuesday that the Burleigh County State's Attorney's Office did not object to a defense motion to dismiss the charge after a compromise was reached between the parties.

South Central Judicial District Judge Bruce Haskell signed the motion to dismiss the charge on Monday.

Neufeld said her office also decided not to file any additional criminal charges related to allegations made about the June primary election.

Zachary Pelham, attorney for Keiser, said in an email to Burleigh County prosecutors last week that a settlement agreement had been reached that resolves all potential claims in a civil dispute between Keiser and Sand.

"As part of the settlement between the two, each have agreed that they no longer wish to pursue the complaints each have made to law enforcement related to statements made in the 2018 primary," Pelham wrote.

The settlement was not filed in court and the parties declined to discuss terms of the agreement. No civil action had been filed in court.

"Sometimes, the best result is for parties to try to resolve it before cases are even brought," Pelham said in an interview.

Sand had pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge and was scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 31 before the case was dismissed.

"I thought it was unfortunate that Mr. Sand was charged for basically using protected speech," said Sand's attorney, Chad McCabe. "I think the charge itself was very questionable."

Sand said Tuesday he thinks the law should be changed.

"I hope that no other free citizen should ever have to be charged for protected free speech," Sand said.

In the June 12 primary, Keiser received 1,594 votes and Rep. Larry Klemin received 1,664 votes to advance to the November election. Sand received 1,007 votes.