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North Dakota state senator steps down after inmate text message scandal

North Dakota's longest serving state senator acknowledges the more than 70 texts exchanged with a man facing child pornography charges are "just gone."

BISMARCK, N.D. (CN) — North Dakota state Senator Ray Holmberg announced his resignation Monday following a report that he sent text messages to a man who was accused of child pornography-related crimes.

"Recent news stories have become a distraction for the important work of the legislative assembly during its interim meetings," Holmberg said in a statement. "I want to do what I can, within my power, to lessen such distractions. Consequently, in respect for the institution and its other 140 members, I shall resign my Senate seat effective June 1, 2022."

Elected in 1976, Sen. Holmberg is currently North Dakota’s longest serving state senator.    

An investigation into Holmberg revealed he exchanged more than 70 text messages with Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier, a Grand Forks County Jail inmate who is suspected of child porn and other sex-related crimes.

According to North Dakota based Newspaper, The Forum, Holmberg stated he was in contact with Morgan-Derosier about “a variety of things,” such as patio work, but claimed he was not aware that Morgan-Derosier was in jail when they communicated with each other. 

Morgan-Derosier previously faced 10 child pornography charges but those charges were later dropped in lieu of federal charges. 

The text messages exchanged between Holmberg and Morgan-Derosier no longer exist, according to the senator. 

“They’re just gone,” Holmberg told the Forum.  

After the Forum’s publication of the investigation, former North Dakota resident Caton Todd came forward and claimed Holmberg sexually assaulted him. 

Todd told the Forum that Holmberg invited him to a Miami-area condo and claims the senator attempted to sexually assault him while he was sleeping. Todd claimed he awoke in the middle of the assault.

“We’re investigating this,” Holmberg’s attorney Mark Friese told the Forum. “That the two were acquainted and spent time together is not in dispute. Any accusations of inappropriate behavior we dispute.”  

Friese responded to a request for further comment by saying they have nothing further to add beyond the press release offered by Holmberg’s office earlier Monday.

Holmberg’s resignation date is set for June 1 to give his GOP district leaders time to appoint a replacement. 

The state senator from Grand Forks made a previous announcement in March that he was not seeking another term due to health concerns. The March announcement drew support from other GOP representatives such as Senator John Hoeven.  

“Through more than four decades of service and leadership, Senator Holmberg has left his mark on Grand Forks and North Dakota, and we are better for it,” said Hoeven. 

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said Holmberg made the right decision to resign, calling the news reports a distraction for both the Legislature and Holmberg. 

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