Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota used special computer program to ‘secretly’ search journalist’s hard-drive

‘Chain of evidence’ records now being withheld by  East Grand Forks officials as scandal grows

by Timothy Charles Holmseth

When the East Grand Forks Police Department (EGFPD) seized a journalist’s hard-drive in December, 2012, the Bureau of Criminal of Apprehension (BCA) would not forensically search it without another Warrant.

Determined – the EGFPD partnered with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) in Crookston, Minnesota where a special investigator searched the hard-drive with a special program that leaves no trace of the activity.

They found nothing – so somebody pulled out wires and rendered the hard-drive inoperable before returning it.

The hard-drive contains ultra sensitive interviews with suspects in a federal kidnapping – audio of a ‘wired’ informant capturing members of the legal community committing felonies – even audio of the the moment the journalist, Timothy Charles Holmseth, is told to put his hands behind his back – he’s under arrest.

But the truth comes out a little at a time.    

On November 25, 2013 Sgt. Michael Norland, special  investigations, PCSO, testified in court regarding a hard-drive he searched. The  hearing was a MOTION TO COMPEL filed by Timothy Charles Holmseth (this reporter/writer  throughout) regarding the return of a computer hard-drive that police had  seized from him in December, 2012.

Holmseth’s Motion was a request for the State of Minnesota to produce any  copy of his hard-drive that may have been made while it was in police custody.

The brief testimony of Investigator Norland shed light and  insight on an insidious issue that has been obscured, largely as result of an ominous  silence by local officials regarding years of institutional harassment and  intimidation of Holmseth.

Sgt. Norland attended the hearing as a State’s witness to  attest that he had not created any secondary copies of Holmseth’s hard-drive  while it was in custody.

Sgt. Norland testified he performed a search on the  hard-drive, which was seized by the EGFPD  on December 14, 2012 from Holmseth’s home/office in East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

Norland testified the hard-drive was given to him on  December 15, 2012 by EGFPD Officer Aeisso Schrage. Norland noted he did not actually  search the hard-drive until some time in March, 2013. “[Officer Shrage] asked  me to look for any illegal activity,” Norland said.

What was occurring with the hard-drive between December 15, 2012 and March, 2013 is not yet known.

However – questions now exist about why the EGFPD wanted  Holmseth’s hard-drive in the first place, and whether or not law enforcement had  any authority to search it at all.

The facts of the case paint a very dark picture that  indicate the entire matter is a rolling deception, that has finally begun to  unravel as result of a single District Judge being assigned to both a Family Division  file, and a Criminal Division file; both centering on Holmseth.

Both court cases heavily involve a journalism project  Holmseth endeavored in 2009 regarding a missing child from Florida named HaLeigh Cummings.

The darkest cloud hanging over the search and seizure issues surrounding  the hard-drive  comes directly from  the words of Ronald Galstad, city attorney, East   Grand Forks.

On January 4, 2013 during a Review Hearing, Attorney Galstad,  the State’s prosecutor against Holmseth, advised Honorable Tamara Yon during  court that the “Bureau of Criminal Apprehension” would not perform a  forensic examination of Holmseth’s computer without a separate “warrant”.  Galstad added that he planned on requesting a second warrant so the hard-drive could be searched.

There is no indication Galstad ever acquired any additional warrant  following the hearing. Holmseth was never served or copied on any such Warrant.

Galstad’s statement and admission about the BCA made sense; because  the language of the Search Warrant, which was signed by District Judge Jeff  Remick on December 13, 2012 did not authorize a search of the computer or  hard-drive.

“Now, therefore, you,  EGFPD Officer Aeisso Shrage and other law enforcement officers acting under  your direction and control, the peace officers aforesaid, hereby are commanded  between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. to search the described premises,  motor vehicle, and the person of Timothy Charles Holmseth for the above  described property and things, to seize the described property and things, and  to retain them in custody subject to court order and according to law”.        – December 13,  2012 / Judge Jeff Remick / Warrant

But … this was no ordinary computer. This was no ordinary  case. This is no ordinary situation.

Holmseth is an award-winning newspaper reporter that became a  lighting rod for conflict in 2009 after he acquired highly volatile information  about a kidnapping in Florida  while interviewing police officers, legal professionals, and family members of  a missing child named HaLeigh Cummings.

The missing child case was a high-media event because the  little girl disappeared 75 miles north of Orlando  on February 10, 2009; the same day a televised memorial was being held for  slain toddler Caylee Anthony.

Holmseth conducted hundreds of hours of interviews in  advance of countless articles and a book he wrote about the missing child case. There  was no doubt Holmseth had uncovered something valuable, because he was  interviewed by the FBI in 2010, and a copy of his book was requested by Major  Gary Bowling, Director of Law Enforcement, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office,  Palatka, Florida shortly after it was published.

Between 2009 and 2012 the police in East Grand Forks   had developed a definite and growing interest in Holmseth.

Holmseth was a person the EGFPD wanted to shut up. 

Lt. Rod Hajicek, EGFPD, telephoned Holmseth in 2009 and told  him he had been contacted by an employee of Xentel, Inc. Hajicek told Holmseth  that Xentel did not want Holmseth to publish the charity fraud story he was  working on. Holmseth’s story revealed the shady organization was involved in  Photoshopping a picture of HaLeigh Cummings and using it online to solicit donations. 

This extremely improper action by Hajicek caused a significant problem for the  City of East Grand Forks.   Xentel has been sued by the Attorney  General’s Office’s in Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and South Carolina for  defrauding the public through various scams.

In 2012 Holmseth wrote a detailed letter to the Minneapolis  FBI. He reported that a participant of the child trafficking underground that  took HaLeigh Cummings had explained to him that an organized group of criminals  is kidnapping children under the auspices of ‘child protection’ with what they  call a “rescue mission”.

Holmseth’s source also provided names of individuals  operating a baby-selling operation that involved infants being sold for huge  money; internationally, through the U.S. Embassy.

In his 2012 letter to the FBI, Holmseth provided names of  licensed legal professionals that were deeply involved in the so-called rescue missions,  which were actually quasi hoaxes, being executed in advance of charity fraud. Holmseth  explained how the participants strategically plan a fake kidnapping in  cooperation with members of the child’s family. When the news media announces  the kidnapping, the apparent heart-breaking tragedy becomes extremely lucrative via donations  to the family generated and driven by the Amber Alert.

In the case of the missing child HaLeigh Cummings, the charlatans that  contacted Holmseth, and subsequently, the EGFPD, were involved with Nancy  Grace. The group was advancing the hoax on the HLN network and Grace’s  television program. 

Police incident reports show Nancy Grace’s fake ‘reporter’ for the Cummings kidnapping,  Art Harris, contacted Lt.  Hajicek and requested he arbitraily arrest  Holmseth. Hajicek then contacted Polk County Attorney Greg Widseth in what  appeared to be a request for Widseth to manufacture a charge.

Although Widseth ignored Hajicek’s shady request, one has to wonder why the County Attorney didn’t immediately notice that Harris told Hajicek in an email that the FBI had visisted his friend at Xentel because of information they received from Holmseth.

The implications of Widseth’s ignorance may have been the difference between HaLeigh Cummings being found – or not being found.

Police incident reports at the EGFPD contain telephone calls from individuals that had just been questioned by law enforcement in Florida, per detective’s suspicion they had transported the missing child across state lines.

Kindapping suspects in Florida were actually telephoning the EGFPD and trying to secure the arrest of a journlalist in their town – and EGFPD tried to help them out.

Holmseth also explained how members of the underground had  targeted him personally, because of what he knew. He explained how the criminal  players contact family members of witnesses to their crimes, manipulate social  services, generate false police reports, and viciously oppress any witnesses  that speak up. The group uses cyber-stalking and the fear of the witness losing  their children through bogus child protection actions.

Emails in the court record show Art Harris contacted the mother of Holmseth’s child and they discussed how she could file child protection reports against him that would make him appear mentally unstable, armed and dangerous. Five CPS reports were filed against Holmseth in only four months during the summer of 2009.

Holmseth received telephone calls from strangers using voice changing software that warned him he was going to lose custody of his children if he did not shut up about HaLeigh being alive.

The onslaught of false CPS reports temporarily stopped in October of 2009 after Polk County Social Services (PCSS) spoke with the child’s play therapist. Miranda Cassetta, CPS agent, PCSS documented the play therapist said she observed aboslutely no child abuse or negelect, and stated the child expressed love for his father and really enjoyed being with him.

Interestingly – nearly every bogus report made to CPS about Holmseth contained mention of his work on the Cummings kidnapping. 

The information provided to federal authorities by Holmseth  exposed the relationships and misconduct of several EGFPD officers, a Minnesota  Public Defender, Guardian Ad Litem, Chief of Police, as well as the City  Attorney.

In October of 2012, Holmseth found himself trapped in the  proverbial Lion’s Den. He was now the Defendant in a criminal case filed against  him by City Attorney Ronald Galstad based upon charges initiated by Lt. Hajicek.

The charges alleged Holmseth violated an Injunction filed in  a Divorce Court  in the State of Florida, despite Holmseth  having never been married; nor had be been in the State of Florida. Holmseth was telephoned and warned he was going to be murdered if he attended the Broward County court hearing to defend himself.

Holmseth reported the death threat to Lt. Hajicek who made no report.

The City of East Grand Forks then brought criminal charges agaisnt Holmseth for publishing something in violation of the Florida Injunction. The EGFPD had no  legal “venue” to  bring the case.

But – they did not need a case if they could coerce the Defendant into a plea.   

The City of East Grand Forks assumed authority they did not  have, to bring a bogus charge they could not prove; because if Holmseth could  be convicted of a crime – he would lose his credibility as a witness.

Holmseth narrowly escaped their trap.

Attorney Michael LaCoursiere, Minnesota Public Defender’s  office, told Holmseth five minutes before his jury trial that if he didn’t  accept an Alford plea, Galstad was going to call two uniformed police officers  (Sgt. Chris Olson and Deputy Jesse Haugen) to lie on the witness stand to  convict him. LaCoursiere advised Holmseth that the cops had a plan to have him  put in St. Cloud State Prison.

Holmseth, a single parent, not willing to gamble with his  children, accepted the plea under duress – but a double-cross was already  planned.  

On December 12, 2012 a trap was sprung amidst a scheduled  Review Hearing when Holmseth was suddenly accused of violating the terms of the  Alford agreement – but not told what, specifically, he had done. Galstad had quietly  slipped a last second MOTION TO REVOKE to LaCoursiere via hand-delivery by Lt.  Hajicek – LaCoursiere did not tell Holmseth about the filing.

The men were quietly networking and working together, so smoothly, it appeared they had done it many times.

The plan collapsed; however, when Honorable Yon refused to  allow Galstad an impromptu Evidentiary Hearing, that day, without producing  Discovery to Holmseth.

The next day, December 13, 2012 the EGFPD petitioned the  District Court for a Search Warrant to seize Holmseth’s property – including  his computer and hard-drive. The Affidavit submitted by Officer Schrage stated  evidence was at risk of destruction and the computer needed to be immediately seized. 

An agreement was subsequently reached between Holmseth and  Galstad. On April 26, 2013 Holmseth’s property was returned via a court order  by Honorable Yon.

But … the hard-drive didn’t work anymore.

A triple-cross – it was the second time Galstad and the City  Police had broken an agreement with Holmseth.

In July, 2013 Holmseth filed a complaint to EGF Police Chief  Michael Hedlund regarding the in-operable hard-drive and destruction of  property. Hedlund responded to Holmseth stating it was not the fault of the police  and advised Holmseth the City would not pay to recover it.

But – Hedlund’s letter contained an interesting statement. “The  officers used a program that allowed them to view the contents of your  hard-drive without any changes occurring during their investigation,” he said.

Hedlund’s  admission declares the Sheriff’s Office deliberately  uses a computer program that does not create entries in the Administrator log of the  hard-drive.

Interestingly – the Police Chief actually knew that subtle fact and pointed it out in his letter.

This admission by the Police Chief creates a tremendous problem  for City Attorney Galstad, and the all-around credibility and integrity of the  EGFPD and PCSO. 

Notabaly – Hedlund stated officers (plural) had searched Holmseth’s hard-drive, while Sgt. Norland made no mention of the others during his testimony.

During Holmseth’s cross exmination of Norland at the November 25 hearing, Galstad continuously objected to any questions Holmseth asked that did not relate directly to the issue of a ‘copy’ being made of the hard-drive.

Holmseth was taking flak because he was directly over the target.

Galstad had already told Judge Yon on January 4, 2013 that  the BCA would not examine the computer’s hard-drive without a proper warrant.

The question now exists; under what authority did the PCSO  or Chief Hedlund’s investigators enter Holmseth’s hard-drive and spend all day going through his private  property? If the BCA did not have the authority; what authority did the PCSO  or EGFPD have?

The attitude and mindset of the law enforcement officials involved in this matter indicate they are operating within a ‘culture’ that encourages abuse and miscondcuct.

When the property was returned to Holmseth by Shrage on April 26, 2013, the officer arrogantly boasted to Holmseth he had read all of his (Holmseth’s) daughter’s text messages between her and her boyfriend. Shrage appeared giddishly excited about his behavior.

Shrage’s comments about  Holmseth’s teenage daughter are a manifestation of very serious issues that indicate the man is a predator. Holmseth worries Shrage may victimize other young girls the same way.

Detective Chris Olson, EGFPD, also appears to be a predator with tendencies to stalk and intimidate. During the execution of the police department’s Search Warrant on December 14, 2012, he asked Holmseth’s daughter where she worked. The teenage girl told him, and the very next morning, for the first time ever, Sgt. Olson appeared at the restaurant while the child was working and she had to wait on him.

The insult upon injury is Holmseth’s complete innocence from  the very beginning. “Since they did not find any information that was of  evidentiary value they did not make a copy of any of the information that was  on your hard-drive,” Hedlund said.

The emerging facts have revealed a disturbing reality that  could potentially affect past, present, and future cases.

The program Sgt. Norland used to spend an entire day going  through Holmseth’s private property at his lesiure, made no changes to the computer. That means  it leaves no record of law enforcement’s activity.

The tool appears to accomadate a procedure that is a deliberate violation of Search and Seizure laws intended to assist law enforcement escape keeping a  chain of evidence.

Therefore – the police need only lie to a Judge and claim  that evidence on a computer hard-drive is at risk of destruction or removal and  needs to be seized and retained. After it is retained the Sheriff’s Office  can view all the contents of the hard-drive without any record being generated.

During the hearing on November 25, 2013 Holmseth advised the  Court he had a Request For Production he would like to submit to Galstad.  Honorable Yon advised him to hand it to Galstad.

Galstad reviewed the document and declared he wasn’t going to give  Holmseth anything.

This is a developing story.