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Prosecutor: Man tied to former North Dakota lawmaker sexually abused children with former US senator aide

The U.S. Attorney's Office alleged Nicholas Morgan-Derosier sexually abused 20 to 21 children since 2011, including some with James McHaney, who worked for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.

NICHOLAS MORGAN-DEROSIER.jpg
Nicholas Morgan-Derosier
Grand Forks County Jail
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FARGO — Federal prosecutors want to use evidence that suggests a man tied to a former North Dakota state senator sexually abused multiple children, sometimes with a former aide to a U.S. senator.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fargo filed a notice on Monday, Aug. 1, that asks a federal judge to allow the evidence to be presented at trial against 34-year-old Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier. The Grand Forks man’s trial is set for Feb. 14 in Fargo and is expected to last seven to eight days, according to documents filed Friday.

Morgan-Derosier was charged in January with receiving and distributing child porn, traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual activity, transporting child porn, transporting a minor and possessing child porn. He faces life in prison if convicted.

The defendant has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors alleged he brought two children from their Twin Cities-area home to his Grand Forks residence in March 2020 without getting permission from the children’s mother. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also claims he planned to sexually abuse the children.

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Prosecutors must prove intent, which they plan to do by introducing evidence that Morgan-Derosier sexually abused other minors, according to court documents filed this month. Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Puhl previously said during a court hearing that Morgan-Derosier sexually abused 20 or 21 children since 2011.

Court documents filed Monday provide more specifics on those claims. Some of the children ranged in age from 15 to 17 years old, while others were identified only as underage males. Most of the instances allegedly happened in Minnesota, and prosecutors cited one case in Wisconsin.

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James McHaney
Minnesota Department of Corrections

Prosecutors also claimed Morgan-Derosier sexually abused several children together with James Michael McHaney, 42, of Minneapolis. It’s unclear when those alleged incidents happened.

Morgan-Derosier has not been charged in Minnesota in connection to the allegations. A message left for the federal public defender's office was not returned Friday.

McHaney was an aide for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, but she fired him after he was arrested in 2007 during a sex sting. Federal prosecutors in that case alleged McHaney tried to arrange sex with an unidentified person posing as a 13-year-old boy.

Cantwell, who has represented Washington in Congress since 2001, did not return messages left by The Forum at her press office.

McHaney pleaded guilty to possessing child porn. He eventually moved to Minnesota, but it’s unclear when he became acquainted with Morgan-Derosier.

McHaney pleaded guilty Thursday to criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota’s Hennepin County District Court. The charge alleged he sexually abused a 15-year-old in 2016. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

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Morgan-Derosier has been tied to former North Dakota Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks. While jailed in Grand Forks on state child porn charges that were dismissed to make way for federal prosecution in this case, Morgan-Derosier exchanged 72 text messages with a 77-year-old man from Grand Forks on Aug. 23 and 24.

Puhl told a federal judge the 77-year-old asked or told Morgan-Derosier that he wanted the jailed man to bring Morgan-Derosier’s 19- or 20-year-old boyfriend over for a massage, according to court transcripts.

The Forum was unable to confirm the contents of the text messages, but it did confirm the phone number Morgan-Derosier texted belonged to Holmberg. Holmberg claimed the messages were related to “a variety of things,” including patio work Morgan-Derosier did for him.

When asked in April where the messages were, Holmberg said, “They’re just gone.”

The Forum later reported federal agents searched Holmberg’s home and seized several items in November. Electronics and storage devices, including some issued to Holmberg by the state, were among the items seized, Holmberg’s attorney Mark Friese confirmed to The Forum.

Holmberg has not been charged with any crime in connection to this case.

First elected in 1976, Holmberg was the longest-serving state senator in the U.S. when he announced in March that he planned not to seek reelection this year. Shortly after The Forum ran its story on his connection to Morgan-Derosier, Holmberg said he would step down six months early.

His last day in office was June 1.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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