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HED: Pipeliners charged

Three men arraigned Monday for felony assault

By Molly Miron

Pioneer Editor

Three men in Bemidji from Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas were charged Monday in Beltrami County District Court with felony first-degree burglary, felony fourth-degree assault and gross misdemeanor third-degree riot with unlawful force or violence.

Scott Andrew Fontenot, 30, of Richard, Texas; Derek Bryce Fontenot, 33, of Westlake, La.; and William Wayne Scott, 18, of Nashville, Ark.; were released following arraignment Monday from the Beltrami County Jail on $5,000 each bail and non-financial conditions including n contact with victims.

According to the criminal complaint:

On Nov. 2, a man was assaulted at a Bemidji bar. Preliminary investigation by the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office suggested that Kenneth Pell, "a disgruntled pipeline worker," who had been fired from the Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline expansion project had arranged for the assault. The man Pell wanted assaulted was Micah Fontenot, brother of foreman Seth Fontenot, who had done the firing.

The man hired to commit the assault mistakenly assaulted the wrong man. Pell, now out of a job, planned to return to his California home.

The complaint states that Seth Fontenot and other pipeliners believed Beltrami County law enforcement wouldn't complete the investigation and bring Pell to justice before he left Minnesota.

So, according to the complaint, early in the morning of Nov. 5, Seth Fontenot, Derek Fontenot and William Scott went to a residence occupied by Pell and two other pipeliners in the 100 block of Kenwood Circle Northeast in Northern Township. The Fontenots and Scott entered the house without permission and went into the basement where Pell was sleeping. Seth Fontenot and Scott rousted Pell from bed and began to beat him up. Derek Fontenot restrained a woman who was with Pell at the time.

Pell was severely beaten and suffered a broken nose and concussion. The carpet and halls of the room where the beating took place were splattered with blood. Pell was taken to North Country Regional Hospital where he was treated and released.

Pell was able to identify his assailants and the woman gave physical descriptions. With their information, deputies assembled three separate six-person lineups, which included the separate photos of the three suspects. The woman witness selected the photos of Seth Fontenot, Derek Fontenot and Scott as those of the men who had broken in and assaulted Pell.

The Fontenots and Scott were located at their work sites on the pipeline. Seth Fontenot and Scott denied having anything to do with the assault, but Seth Fontenot had fresh wounds on his knuckles and blood smears on his shirt. Derek Fontenot refused to speak to officers, but all three were taken into custody.

First-degree burglary with assault on a person in a building carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $35,000 fine; fourth-degree resulting in demonstrable bodily harm carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $6,000 fine; third-degree riot with unlawful force of violence to person or property carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.