North Dakota v. HowardAnnotate this Case
The State appealed from an order of dismissal after the district court dismissed conspiracy charges against Kristen Howard and Oshaya Watkins for lack of probable cause. The State charged Howard and Watkins with conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, both class C felonies. Kelly recorded a conversation on her phone that she had with Howard and Watkins at their workplace in Minot. Howard supervised Kelly and Watkins and called them in on their day off for this meeting. Howard and Watkins were speaking when Kelly arrived. Howard told Kelly that Howard’s husband was having an affair with “Jane Doe,” a service member in the U.S. Air Force. Howard allegedly planned to get back at Doe for having the affair with Howard’s husband. The three would then take Doe drinking in Minot and slip her a drug. Watkins was supposed to get Doe’s keys, and Howard would then go back to Doe’s apartment and “plant paraphernalia and drug items.” The apparent purpose of drugging Doe and planting items was to get Doe in trouble with the Air Force. Howard told Kelly and Watkins she had a drug they could use. After the conversation ended, Kelly reported it to the Ward County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy contacted Howard’s husband, who confirmed he had an affair with Doe. The deputy also spoke to Doe, who said she received text messages about meeting up with others that evening. However, the person texting Doe told Doe her name was Mandy, and the phone number did not come back to Howard or Watkins. No meeting took place. After a preliminary hearing, the district court dismissed the charges without prejudice for lack of probable cause. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the trial court erred when it found no evidence establishing probable cause that Howard and Watkins committed an overt act to effect the alleged conspiracy. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings.