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Published May 15, 2013, 09:06 AM

Grand Forks man charged with drug felonies

Nicholas Thorsen, the Grand Forks man present when Christian Bjerk ingested the synthetic hallucinogen in Thorsen’s home last June that killed Bjerk hours later, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to separate but related drug charges.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

Nicholas Thorsen, the Grand Forks man present when Christian Bjerk ingested the synthetic hallucinogen in Thorsen’s home last June that killed Bjerk hours later, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to separate but related drug charges.

Thorsen, 21, told investigators June 11 that Bjerk, 18, Wesley Sweeney, 18 and a 15-year-old boy came to his home at 497 N. 51st. St. in Grand Forks late June 10 with several drugs.

Thorsen said he didn’t take the drugs the other three took and somebody in Thorsen’s home made Bjerk, Sweeney and the younger boy leave when their behavior became strange.

In the early hours of June 11, Bjerk’s body was found about a block away of what later was said to be an overdose. Nearby, Sweeney and the 15-year-old boy were showing effects of similar overdoses, acting and speaking irrationally. Both were hospitalized.

Bjerk’s death sparked an investigation that became a federal case and has led to at least 15 people being charged in what prosecutors say is a Grand Forks-based ring that shipped chemicals from other countries to several states.

Most of those charged have pleaded guilty in deals with prosecutors and are awaiting sentencing. Sweeney was sentenced last fall to 12.5 years in prison for his admitted role in providing the synthetic hallucinogens to Bjerk that ended his life.

The same drugs killed Elijah Stai, 17, June 15 after he ingested them June 13 in East Grand Forks.

Thorsen wasn’t charged in the federal case.

Charges

His attorney, Alex Reichert, said Thorsen has cooperated with the federal investigation and had nothing to do with the drugs that killed Bjerk.

“That was devastating to him,” Reichert said. “They were friends.”

But other drugs found during the ensuing search of Thorsen’s home led to two Class C felony charges against him in state district court: possession of drug paraphernalia to ingest hydrocodone and synthetic marijuana. Both charges carry top penalties of five years in prison. He also faces two related misdemeanor drug charges.

Thorsen also was charged with a Class C felony count alleging he fled law enforcement officers in August in Grand Forks.

He pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the charges during his arraignment, and a pretrial conference was set for June 27.

Thorsen remains in the Grand Forks County jail, held also on a Minnesota charge for fleeing an officer in 2010 in Red Lake County.

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