Former Ward County deputy cleared

Publish Date: 07/12/2016

A charge of reckless endangerment against former Ward County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Captain Michael Nason has been dismissed. The action occurred late last week in District Court in Minot.

Nason had been charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanour A, in conjunction with the death of Ward County Jail inmate Dustin Irwin. Nason was charged in October 2015 at the recommendation of special prosecutor Seymour Jordan. Jordan, Divide County state’s attorney, was appointed special prosecutor by Ward County commissioners following a report by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation looking into circumstances surrounding the death of Irwin.

According to the BCI investigation report, “Employees of the Ward County Correctional Center made statements regarding Mr. Irwin’s health to Mr. Nason and Mr. Nason did not attempt to get Mr. Irwin any medical care, which created a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death to another.”

The report also stated that Nason was heard telling someone on the telephone that Irwin was not stable enough to be transported. Nason and Sheriff Steve Kukowski later transported Irwin to an exchange site at Coleharbor where Irwin was placed in the custody of a Burleigh County sheriff’s officer in October 2014. Irwin died a short time later.

“The charge was really unfair. He never did anything wrong,” said Thomas Dickson, Bismarck, Nason’s attorney. “Just about every law enforcement agency is underfunded, understaffed and overworked. It’s hard to be a cop these days. They need to be appreciated, not vilified. Frivolous complaints against them are not justified”

Nason resigned his position several months ago. Prior to the dismissal of the charge, Nason was scheduled for a jury trial in late August.

Kukowski is currently on paid leave by Ward County pending a hearing of his possible removal by Gov. Jack Dalrymple. The date of the hearing is not known but is expected to take place this month with special commissioner Patrick Weir presiding. Weir will make a recommendation to Dalrymple on whether or not to permanently remove Kukowski as sheriff.

Major Robert Barnard has been named interim Ward County Sheriff in Kukowski’s absence.