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Published June 05, 2013, 10:03 PM

Little Owl trial delayed: Former Spirit Lake official charged in domestic incident in Grand Forks

The trial of Mark Little Owl, former director of social services for Spirit Lake Nation, on charges stemming from a domestic disturbance in Grand Forks last summer, has been postponed to Aug. 8.

By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald

The trial of Mark Little Owl, former director of social services for Spirit Lake Nation, on charges stemming from a domestic disturbance in Grand Forks last summer, has been postponed to Aug. 8.

Little Owl had been scheduled to stand trial starting Wednesday in Grand Forks District Court, but a court scheduling conflict forced the delay, defense attorney Patrick Rosenquist said.

Little Owl faces misdemeanor charges of assault, theft and contributing to the deprivation of a minor in connection with the Aug. 21, 2012, incident at the Grand Forks apartment of his former wife, Phyllis Roberts. He entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment in March.

The theft charge relates to a cellphone that Roberts alleges Little Owl took from her during the incident. Originally charged as a felony, the theft allegation was reduced to a misdemeanor after a probable cause hearing in March, most of which dealt with the value of the Motorola Atrix 2 4G phone. A felony theft charge requires a value of at least $500.

Two children, sons of Little Owl and Roberts ages 3 and 7 at the time, were present during the altercation, according to a police report.

Little Owl, who formerly worked in social services for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in western North Dakota, was hired by Spirit Lake last summer to try to resolve staffing, programming and other deficiencies that had been identified in Bureau of Indian Affairs reports, especially in cases of alleged abuse and sexual abuse of children on the reservation.

Little Owl hired additional social workers, changed office procedures to provide clients with easier access and began responding to other concerns cited in BIA audits. But the BIA, at the tribe’s request, took over child protection and related programs last fall.

Little Owl continued to administer other programs until earlier this year, when he apparently was suspended by the Tribal Council, though tribal leaders have declined to confirm that or clarify his employment status.

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