A former deputy with the Burleigh County Sheriff's Department has been sentenced for stealing drugs from the state crime lab.

On Tuesday, South Central District Judge John Grinsteiner sentenced 32-year-old Kerry Komrosky to 30 months for felony theft of property and 360 days for two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, bringing his total prison time to three and a half years.

Komrosky was charged in April 2018 after investigators found 2.9 pounds of meth and 47 grams of cocaine in his home. In October, Komrosky accepted a conditional plea and pleaded guilty to amended charges.

Komrosky worked for the Burleigh County Sheriff's Department for five years and had been assigned to the Metro Area Narcotics Task Force, which includes officers from law enforcement agencies in Burleigh and Morton counties.

At Komrosky's sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Luke Kapella, a special agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and task force supervisor, said that 2 pounds of narcotics recovered from Komrosky's home were from cases in which Komrosky was involved.

Kapella said Komrosky's action "had a great impact" on the task force's work and eroded public trust. Several federal and state cases were dismissed because of Komrosky's involvement, included two federal drug trafficking cases, he said.

"We all work as a group to target and dismantle the drug trafficking organizations. When you have an incident like this, it not only erodes the public trust, but also the trust in people who want to work with us," Kapella said.

McLean County State's Attorney Ladd Erickson recommended a five-year sentence for the felony theft charge and 360 days for the two misdemeanor charges.

Erickson told Grinsteiner that, in his recommendations, he took into account that Komrosky is a veteran and is struggling with addiction. Yet, Erickson said Komrosky had a "fork in the road," where he could have decided to get treatment.

"The decision was made not to do that. The decision was made to violate the trust of the public by manipulating evidence, taking evidence from cases and using that evidence for his addiction," Erickson said.

Michael Hoffman, Komrosky's attorney, told the judge that Komrosky didn't make a decision to violate the trust of the public and "give law enforcement a black eye," but, instead, his addiction played a role.

Komrosky, who appeared in black and white striped jail uniform, apologized on Tuesday for his misdeeds.

"I'm not denying any of the impact that special agent Kapella testified to earlier. But, top priority is that black eye that I gave law enforcement and the trust. I can only imagine what these officers have gone through ... and I just want the court to know I am apologetic for that and I never intended for any of that to occur," Komrosky said.

Komrosky failed his drug patch requirements multiple times in violation of his bond conditions, most recently in December. But Hoffman said his relapse is "just one step ... for a person who's at the bottom."

Hoffman asked Grinsteiner to impose probation so that Komrosky could complete a treatment program with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

After the hearing, Hoffman said he would appeal an order denying suppression of evidence and withdraw Komrosky's plea, as allowed under Komrosky's conditional plea.

Hoffman contends that law enforcement illegally entered Komrosky's home and seized evidence. He said he plans to file an appeal with the North Dakota Supreme Court "as soon as possible."

Burleigh County Sheriff Kelly Leben said on Tuesday that he believed Komrosky received a "fair sentence" based on the charges to which Komrosky pleaded guilty. He also said the case adversely impacted staff morale for a period of time.

"We obviously need to move forward and make sure this doesn't happen again, but sometimes you can't stop human behavior. The question becomes whether or not we take action, and that's where I feel we did a good job in being reactive to it and getting the situation resolved," he said.

In response to Hoffman's plan to appeal, Leben said the sheriff's department's employees understand what is allowed under the Fourth Amendment.

"Officers are making split-second decision based on their training and experience and, at this point, the state's attorney felt our actions were reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and so that's basically what we rely on," Leben said. "We'll just continue to support what we did and, ultimately, it will be up to the Supreme Court to make a decision."

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)


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