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Deputy serving under accused sheriff also charged with crime

WATFORD CITY, N.D. — A deputy serving under a northwestern North Dakota county sheriff who is accused of misusing a department credit card also is facing criminal charges.

McKenzie County Detective Michael Schmitz is accused of lying to the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation about prescription pill abuse and about his personal involvement in a case involving a divorce and domestic violence, the Williston Herald reported.

Schmitz faces two counts of giving false reports to law enforcement. He could face up to two years in prison if convicted of the misdemeanors. The Associated Press on Thursday requested comment from his attorney, Jeff Nehring.

Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger is accused of racking up $980 in personal charges on the department’s credit card in connection with a law enforcement conference in Las Vegas in March. He could face a year in jail if convicted of misdemeanor misapplication of entrusted property.

Schwartzenberger has repaid the money and earlier this month issued a statement saying: “When the sheriff does his job, he doesn’t always make friends and the truth will always prevail.”

Few public officials in North Dakota have been criminally charged in recent years, and fewer still have been removed from office, according to North Dakota Association of Counties attorney Aaron Birst. He cited then-Gov. John Hoeven’s removal of Richland County Sheriff Harlan Muehler in 2001 for misconduct as one of the only examples in recent memory.

“The case that’s occurring in McKenzie County — that’s rare,” Birst said.

County Commission Chairman Richard Cayko did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Herald and the AP.

In related news, ND sheriff accused of misusing department credit card.

Information from: Williston Herald, http://www.willistonherald.com

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.