An Odd Twist: Dassinger Ranch Hand Charged with Misuse of 911

Gladstone rancher Gary Dassinger is enduring an unnecessary amount of abuse from the government that should be protecting him as he fights charges of animal cruelty and neglect. But things on the Dassinger Ranch recently took a new turn.

On July 12th – just two days after the seizure order on Gary’s animals was lifted – two Stark County Sheriff’s Deputy’s showed up at the Dassinger Ranch to serve papers on ranch hand, J.R. The reason? Stark County is charging him with three counts of “Misuse of 911 Emergency Line”, which is a Class A misdemeanor.

North Dakota Century Code (NDCC) Section 12.1-17-07 (4) defines 911 harassment as follows:

“4. A person is guilty of an offense if the person initiates communication with a 911 emergency line, public safety answering point, or an emergency responder communication system with the intent to annoy or harass another person or a public safety agency or who makes a false report to a public safety agency.

“a. Intent to annoy or harass is established by proof of one or more calls with no legitimate emergency purpose . “b. Upon conviction of a violation of this subsection, a person is also liable for all costs incurred by any unnecessary emergency response.” I called the Dassinger Ranch and spoke with J.R. about the charges. He expressed to me that while he did indeed call 911 multiple times, it was never done with the intent to harass.

In our conversation, some very important points were brought up. Ever since the county decided to pursue charges against Gary, the ranch has endured:

1. People driving by slowly or stopping during day and night hours.

2. Theft of property.

3. Gates left open or not shut properly.

4. Regular unannounced visits from the Stark County Sheriff’s Department.

5. And even one instance of a bird with its head torn off and impaled onto a fence.

And when it comes to the visits that existed from the Sheriff’s Department, while coming and going, they apparently told the Dassinger Ranch that they would call before they came out. A promise they are alleged to have not kept even one time.

On one occasion, while he was in bed, J.R. says he heard someone in the driveway about 11:30pm. He went to check and found someone from the Sheriff’s Department. When he asked what was going on, the response was that they were just there to check on the horses. Was it really necessary to be “checking horses” in the dark at 11:30pm?

J.R. feels part of his responsibility on the ranch is to watch out for the property and the animals, and he takes his job seriously. When considering everything previously mentioned, is it really unreasonable that calls would be made to 911 when people are coming around the ranch unannounced? Especially in later hours of the evening?

Perhaps the best point J.R. made to me was the fact that if Stark County was so bothered by the calls they could have simply asked him to stop calling– either by phone or in person. Instead, they’ve just slapped him with charges and gave him a court date of July 26th– which has since been moved to October.

On July 20th I submitted an Open Records Request for the 911 transcripts and/or recordings of the three calls identified in the charges against J.R. And today I was provided a copy of the transcripts (I’ve edited out personal information):

Call 1

Start: 2017‐06‐24 22:09:24 Dispatcher:

Dispatch, this is Ann, how can I help you?

State Radio Caller:

Hi Ann, Brent at State Radio.

Dispatcher:

ya.

State Radio Caller:

We took a 911 call from address of xxx xxth Street Southwest Dispatcher:

Ok

State Radio Caller:

I’m sorry, xxxx, I, it looks like its

Dispatcher:

xxxx right?

State Radio Caller:

ya, but he said xxx not xxxx

Dispatcher:

ok

State Radio Caller:

He said he’s reporting a prowler

Dispatcher:

ok

State Radio Caller:

x miles south of Gladstone

Dispatcher:

Ok, I think I have a deputy out with, he was doing some extra patrol over there and somebody waved him down State Radio Caller:

Said the prow, had a license plate for the prow, he said he was going to give a license plate and hang up, and which he did.

Dispatcher:

ok

State Radio Caller:

He said the license plate on vehicle was Sam, Henry, Edward, Robert, Ida, Frank, Frank, sheriff Dispatcher:

oh, ok

State Radio Caller:

Yup

Dispatcher:

And do you know who called you?

State Radio Caller:

uh, no, male, wouldn’t give a name. Just said he was going to give us a license plate and hang up. And that’s what he did Dispatcher:

And he gave you the Sheriff’s plate

State Radio Caller:

We have a call back number

State Radio Caller:

(inaudible)

Dispatcher:

Ya, sure

State Radio Caller:

I have a call back number

Dispatcher:

uh huh

State Radio Caller:

xxx‐

Dispatcher:

uh huh

State Radio Caller:

xxx-xxxx

Dispatcher:

K, hang on just a second, (other radio traffic). So this person, unknown, no name, called to report a prowler at that address and that’s, and then he said he’d give you a plate and then he gave you the plate and hung up.

State Radio Caller:

That’s correct.

Dispatcher:

ok. And then he gave you this plate and it came from xxx-xxx-xxxx State Radio Caller:

That is correct.

Dispatcher:

Ok, I’ll let the Deputy know.

State Radio Caller:

(inaudible) when we got the call, it does come up as xxxx xxth Street Southwest, but he said, he said it was xxx Dispatcher:

Oh, it’s xxxx, ya

State Radio Caller:

yep, yep

Dispatcher:

Ok, thank you so much

State Radio Caller:

you bet

Dispatcher:

bye

State Radio Caller:

bye

 

Call 2

Start: 2017‐06‐26 15:29:25 Dispatcher:

911, where is your emergency?

Caller:

A, I guess a prowler, I’ve got somebody out in front of my property, driving real slow, casing the place.

Dispatcher:

Okay, what’s the address?

Caller:

The address is xxxx xxth Street Southwest, Gladstone

Dispatcher:

K, and who is driving around out there?

Caller:

Well, I’m pretty sure it’s the Sheriff

Dispatcher:

Ok, and what are you wanting to report?

Caller:

Well, I want to know why they are driving by the place all the time, they are doing it late at night and during the day, and and a.

Dispatcher:

Ok, what I am going do, I am going have to talk to, what number can they call you back at? I can’t transfer a 911 call, but I will have somebody contact you, a.

Caller:

Ok, here, let me give you my number, area code x, area code xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Dispatcher:

xxxx xxx, xxxx xxxx. And your name?

Caller:

(inaudible)

Dispatcher:

I’m sorry

Caller:

[J.R.]

Dispatcher:

[J.R.]?

Caller:

That’s right

Dispatcher:

Ok, and it was xxxx xxth St

Caller:

xxth Street Southwest

Dispatcher:

ok, I’ll have somebody call you ok and if they are driving around that much and we’ll see what’s going, ok?

Caller:

I appreciate it

Dispatcher:

No problem, mmhh, bye

Caller:

Thank you ma’am, yep, bye

 

Call 3

Start: 2017‐07‐07 13:59:43 Dispatcher:

911, where is your emergency?

Caller:

A, prowler.

Dispatcher:

K, and where at?

Caller:

A, the address is xxxx xxth street southwest, Gladstone, North Dakota.

Dispatcher:

K, and who am I speaking with?

Caller:

[J.R.]

Dispatcher:

x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Caller:

No, there is an x on the end

Dispatcher:

ok

Caller:

I observed the vehicle that was a, crawling along the front of the property Dispatcher:

Ok

Caller:

From a distance, it was a white vehicle, there was lettering on the side of it Dispatcher:

Ok, we have a deputy that’s doing extra patrol out there, was it a few minutes ago?

Caller:

Oh, I see, it was a deputy again. (Inaudible)

Dispatcher:

Wa, was it just a few minutes ago that he was doing it, or? J.R.? Hello?

Because the conversation in the first call is not between J.R. and the Dispatcher, we do not know exactly what was said. In the second call, J.R. says he’s “pretty sure it’s the Sheriff” and simply wants to know why they are prowling around all the time. The third call ends when J.R. realizes it’s the deputy again.

According to state law, can Stark County attempt to prosecute J.R. for “Misuse of 911 Emergency Line”? Sure they can. As previously mentioned, “Intent to annoy or harass is established by proof of one or more calls with no legitimate emergency purpose.” That’s a pretty low standard for prosecuting someone.

Now, it can certainly be argued that J.R.’s phone calls to 911 were ultimately pointless and unnecessary. But that may only be true when considered in a vacuum. Given all that has occurred since Gary Dassinger was charged – and the fact that all of this could have been avoided had the Stark County Sheriff’s Department done the respectable thing and called each time before they came – maybe the phone calls weren’t unreasonable at all. Instead, the Sheriff’s Department seemed content to come and go as they pleased, without any regard for Gary or J.R.

When I consider the entire situation at the Dassinger Ranch, I ask myself, “Who’s harassing who?” The answer is clear to me. And the saddest part in all of this is that the very department the Dassinger Ranch should be able to turn to is the same one that they can’t seem to trust at all. Instead, just two days after losing their seizure order, Stark County can’t seem to refrain from using a law – that requires a low standard to prove guilt – in order to show their hand of power. Coincidence?

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About T. Arthur Mason 419 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.