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Prosecutor asks that Dalrymple remove Ward County sheriff from office

MINOT, N.D. -- A special prosecutor who has filed three charges against the Ward County sheriff relating to the death of a jail inmate has now asked that he be removed from office.

MINOT, N.D. -- A special prosecutor who has filed three charges against the Ward County sheriff relating to the death of a jail inmate has now asked that he be removed from office.

State’s attorney Seymour Jordan requests in a complaint given to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem that Gov. Jack Dalrymple take action against Sheriff Steven Kukowski immediately as allowed in state law.

Jordan, the state’s attorney in Divide County who was appointed to handle the case because of possible conflict of interest in Ward County, also requests that the governor suspend the sheriff and appoint a special commissioner to hold a hearing .

Jordan last month charged Kukowski with two misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and one misdemeanor count of “public servant refusing to perform duty” relating to his handling of management duties at the Ward County Jail..

The case revolves around the death of inmate Dustin Irwin, 25, of Mandaree, who died at a Bismarck hospital in October 2014 of cardiac arrest shortly after he had been handed over to a Burleigh County deputy and exchanged for another prisoner in Bismarck.

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Charges say that Kukowski and Capt. Michael Nason transported Irwin to Bismarck after he had been in the Ward County jail for three days and that his health had been deteriorating there and he was not given any medical attention.

Irwin’s death sparked the investigation regarding the jail and staff.

Kukowski’s attorney Bruce Quick of Fargo said in an interview Wednesday that he hadn’t seen the latest complaint filed with the attorney general.

“Nobody’s bothered to send us anything,” he said.

Quick emphasized the request for the sheriff’s removal was “premature to say the least.”
He said the first court hearing in the case hasn’t even been held. It was set for March 21 but Quick said the prosecutor asked for a delay.

A request for removal from office is rare, Quick said, and he wonders why the case is even moving ahead because Stenehjem’s office did its own investigation in the 16-month-old case and “found nothing wrong.”

However, Jordan paints a different picture in his filing with the attorney general.

He claims that Irwin should have been transported to a medical facility as his health was failing rapidly in the jail or “at a minimum an individual with proper medical training” should have been brought to the jail to evaluate Irwin.

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Jordan also writes that even though the inmate population was 150 percent in excess of capacity, the sheriff “knew of the overcrowding for at least two years prior to this incident.”

Jordan said because of the overcrowding, medical needs were not being met and that multiple jail staff had not received required training, which supports the allegation of neglect of duty in office.

The special prosecutor also said multiple jail workers told investigators that they didn’t transport inmates to the hospital because it wasn’t allowed due to being short-staffed and for “fear of being reprimanded” which he said also supports the “neglect of duty in office.”

Kukowski has been sheriff since 2011.

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