Grand Forks attorney charged with conspiracy to murder informant
GRAFTON, N.D. — Longtime Grand Forks criminal defense attorney Henry Howe was arrested Thursday and charged here with conspiring to murder a confidential informant who is a key witness against one of his clients in a drug case.
Wearing shackles and jail clothes at his bond hearing Thursday in state district court on the Class AA felony charge, Howe, 72, said the charge appears to be “payback” by the court system for his years defending criminals and that he expects to be exonerated.
Howe bailed out Thursday evening by posting $10,000 on his $100,000 bond.
The count of conspiring with two suspected drug dealers and a male undercover informant to kill a female undercover informant carries a top penalty of life in prison without parole if Howe is convicted.
The female informant bought drugs last spring in a sting operation against Howe’s client Paul Lysengen. Howe, Lysengen and Wesley Smith are charged in the alleged conspiracy.
The female informant was not killed, but investigators last week asked her to leave the area because they were concerned she would be murdered.
News of the charges had people buzzing in the courthouses in Grand Forks and Grafton, where Howe is well-known for decades of work as a criminal defense attorney.
Howe and his wife, Mary Seaworth, have had an office in downtown Grand Forks for three decades. He was admitted to the North Dakota bar in 1973, according to state court records.
Seaworth recently opened an office in Minot, and Howe has been battling in recent months with the state officials over his law license being suspended for a time for alleged lack of professional conduct with clients.
On Thursday, state District Judge Richard Geiger set Howe’s bond at $100,000 surety or $10,000 cash, as requested by Walsh County State’s Attorney Barbara Whelan. He has no criminal history, she said.
Geiger set bond for Howe’s co-defendants, Lysengen, 62, recently of East Grand Forks, Minn., and Smith, 57, of St. Thomas, N.D., at $200,000 cash or surety.
Lysengen has a long history of drug felonies, and Smith is on federal probation on drug convictions.
Howe, in asking for lower bail, told Geiger he had no history of crime “or violence or antisocial behavior,” but a career of defending people accused of crimes.
“I believe this is, in some sense, it will turn out this charge against me will turn out to be payback for that representation,” he told Geiger.