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Attorneys: North Dakota to pay $55,000 to settle suit over payloader seized by state crime bureau

FARGO — A long-running dispute centered around a payloader seized by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation in 2014 appears to finally be coming to an end.

A cash settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit that accused BCI agent Arnie Rummel of unjustly seizing Darrell Schrum's payloader and giving it away, lawyers for Schrum said Monday, Jan. 23.

Schrum's attorneys, Mark Friese and Neil Roesler, said they expect their client to receive $55,000 from the state, an amount that includes $35,000 in attorney fees.

Roesler said Rummell and the state could have settled the case for as little as $14,000 had they done so earlier. "The cost just kept escalating all along," he said.

In court Friday, Jan. 20, Roesler told U.S. Magistrate Judge Alice Senechal that closing documents would soon be filed in the suit now that there was a resolution, according to court records. As of Monday, closing documents had not been filed, and the judge had not given final approval of the settlement.

The saga of the payloader started in May 2014 when Rummel secured a warrant to seize the machine from Schrum, who runs a trucking and gravel business in Forbes. Suspecting the loader was stolen, Rummel gave it to who he believed was the true owner, according to court records. Meanwhile, Schrum maintained that he was an innocent buyer.

Dickey County District Judge Daniel Narum found Rummel in contempt in November 2014 and fined him $500 for failing to turn over the loader to the court. Rummel, who is still a BCI agent, had faced criminal charges of misapplication of entrusted property and public servant refusing to perform duty, both misdemeanors. But a Dickey County prosecutor dismissed those counts in March.

Seeking reimbursement for the loader, Schrum filed a claim with the North Dakota Office of Management and Budget, but it was rejected. He filed his federal lawsuit in August, alleging that Rummel violated his constitutional rights when the BCI destroyed the door to his shop, disabled a security camera, seized the payloader and transported it out of state.

Friese said the last he heard the payloader, which may be in Mexico, had not been located. "I don't know if we'll ever find this thing," he said.

Besides Rummel, Schrum's lawsuit also named Knight Trucking of Aberdeen, S.D., Pyramid Transportation of Racine, Minn., and Pyramid employee Brad Whelan as defendants. The two companies and Whelan were involved in transporting the payloader after it was seized, according to the suit.

Friese said a settlement was reached with Knight Trucking, but he didn't have Schrum's permission to publicly discuss the amount of it. Roesler said he's hopeful Pyramid and Whelan will also agree to a settlement.

The attorney for Pyramid and Whelan, Gary Van Cleve of Minneapolis, said he filed a motion on Friday, Jan. 20, to dismiss the claims against his clients. Asked about the prospect of a settlement, he said of the suit, "I don't think it's going to go away this week, but there are several different avenues that we're exploring at the moment."

Rummel's attorney, Douglas Bahr, referred questions to Liz Brocker, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem who oversees the BCI. Brocker said Stenehjem's office does not comment on ongoing litigation.