Two More Public Officials Charged With Crimes, This Time Related To A Prisoner Death In Ward County


Earlier this week we got news about five members of the Department of Human Services – including department director Maggie Anderson, appointed to her position by Governor Jack Dalrymple – getting charged criminally for allegedly obstructing an investigation into the death of a child at a pool in Velva, southeast of Minot.

Today comes news that two law enforcement officers in Ward County (Minot) are facing criminal charges in an unrelated case involving the death of a prisoner that was being held at the Ward County Jail.

Sheriff Steve Kukowski and Captain Michael Nason (retired) were charged after an investigation by the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Kukowski was charged with one count of “public servant refusing to perform duty” and two counts of “reckless endangerment”. Nason was charged one count of “reckless endangerment”.

All of the charges are Class A Misdemeanors. The maximum penalty for that charge is one year in jail, a fine of $3,000, or both.

You can read the affidavit of probable cause supporting the charges against Kukowski below. The same document for Nason can be accessed here.

Both documents are short. This, from the Kukowski affidavit, explains the issue at hand:


The affidavit doesn’t tell the full story on just how bad Irwin’s condition was when he was placed in the custody of Burleigh County officials. “According to a N.D. Department of Corrections report, it was while in the custody of Burleigh County that Irwin was taken to Sanford Health in Bismarck, where doctors decided to airlift Irwin to Fargo,” the Minot Daily News reports. “During the early stages of the flight, Irwin went into ventricular fibrillation and was returned to the Bismarck hospital, where he was declared dead.”

The affidavit goes on to say that Kukowski allegedly maintained a prison population at Ward County at 150 percent of its suggested capacity. It also states that at least nine people working at the jail lacked the proper correctional training.

For Nason’s part, he apparently had concerns about the condition of the prisoner, but allegedly failed to act address the issue:


This issue has been on-going for some time. This from the Minot Daily News:

On Dec. 19, 2014, Ward County was served with an order of noncompliance following a Department of Corrections investigation that found care at the Ward County Jail “grossly inadequate.” A Department of Corrections monitor was subsequently assigned to the Ward County facility, the result of which raised the possibility of the filing of charges against jail officials.

Ward County commissioners voted Jan. 19 of this year to forward results of state and county investigations to Divide County State’s Attorney Seymour Jordan. It was Jordon who made the determination to file charges on behalf of the State of North Dakota against Kukowski and Nason.

Both Nason and Kukowski are set to appear in court on March 21.