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Judge dismisses 2 charges in break-ins case

Judge dismisses 2 charges in break-ins case

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A judge has dismissed two of the 10 felony charges against a Mandan man police said was involved in a string of Bismarck break-ins, saying the prosecution didn't produce enough evidence to support the accusations.

Justin Locke, 29, was charged in December in connection with break-ins at several buildings. A number of items including electronics, checkbooks, identifying information and a gun were stolen, according to police. Locke was charged with seven conspiracy felonies, two theft charges, and one count of unauthorized use of a credit card, court records show.

South Central District Judge Pamela Nesvig on Tuesday dismissed felony charges of unauthorized use of a credit card and theft of a credit card after hearing testimony from an officer who had not investigated those charges. Assistant Burleigh County State’s Attorney Scott Miller called Bismarck Police Detective Joseph Van Neste to testify, but Van Neste could do so only from an affidavit prepared by another officer.

Hearsay evidence is allowed at a preliminary hearing and the affidavit was presented to the defense as part of discovery, Miller said.

Defense attorney Josh Weatherspoon said not having the right officers subpoenaed to testify "is problematic when the state is supposed to be pursuing justice." 

"The state has all the cards and at this point the state didn't show all these counts," he said.

Several of the prosecutor’s questions went unanswered, and Nesvig said VanNeste was in a position in which he had to scramble and figure things out at the last minute.

“Unfortunately it means dismissal of those charges,” the judge told Miller. “You cannot prove, with lack of any evidence really, to show they can go to a jury.”

Locke pleaded not guilty to the remaining charges. Nesvig set a two-day trial starting April 21.

Two other men are charged in the case. Isaac Murray, of Bismarck, is set for a Jan. 11 preliminary hearing on seven conspiracy charges. An arrest warrant has been issued for Kaleb Glatt, of Bismarck, on seven conspiracy charges.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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