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Rugby native honored by U.S. Department of Justice

August 23, 2013
Chris Bieri - Tribune Editor , Pierce County Tribune

A Rugby native has been honored by the U.S. Department of Justice for his work on a successful human trafficking prosecution on the Fort Berthold reservation.

Rick Volk, an Assistant U.S. Attorney based in Bismarck, was give the Director's Award for Superior Performance in Indian Country earlier this month.

The award stemmed from the successful prosecution of Dustin J. Morsette, who was convicted of 16 counts, ranging from sex trafficking by force or coercion to aggravated sexual abuse by force to tampering with a witness.

North Dakota's U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon presented Volk with the award, praising his determination.

"The case did not come to trial for over two years," Purdon said. "During that time, these delays posed serious problems for this prosecution as many of the witnesses and child victims involved in this case were reluctant to cooperate or testify because they had been threatened and assaulted, physically and sexually. Given the age and the victimization suffered by many of our witnesses, there were real questions as to whether or not they would actually testify. These questions persisted is some cases up in to and including the time the witnesses actually presented themselves to take the oath before they took the witness stands."

Volk, who graduated from Rugby High School in 1984 and from the University of North Dakota Law School in 1991, said the credit should go to the entire team that prosecuted the case.

"As I said in my comments at the conference when they gave me the award, I honestly wish everyone who worked on the case could get the same award," Volk said. "It was a long-term project over that couple of years to work with the various victims who were reluctant to move forward. It was a lot of help from different people. I thought the award was really meant more for the whole team effort."

The award is the highest honor an assistant U.S. Attorney can receive from the Department of Justice.

Volk has been with the U.S. Attorney's Office since 2002 and worked at the Burleigh County State's Attorney's Office for nine years prior to that.

Volk said the office will continue to prosecute these types of crimes with an emphasis on public safety.

"We're committed to doing these types of cases along with federal, state and local law enforcement," he said. "These are priority cases. We take them very seriously. We are willing to put whatever effort into the case to bring it to court and get justice for those who are involved."



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