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Defendant testifies in defense of murder charge

Daniel Harden took the stand in Adams County District Court Thursday to explain his alibi and deny accusations that he was involved in the robbery conspiracy or murder of 19-year-old Jose “Joey” Hansen.

“I did not participate in the robbing or murder of Joey Hansen,” Harden said.

Harden admitted that he met up with Deante Mullen on Sept. 10, 2017, the day before Hansen died during a robbery attempt allegedly committed by the Mullen and Harden. He said Katherine Creigh, another co-defendant in the case, also was in the vehicle when Mullen picked him up from his residence at 714 N. Williams Ave.

Harden testified that the reason he wanted to meet up with Mullen was to talk to him about rumors circulating around town about Harden being a snitch.

Harden wanted to let Mullen know that he saw the paperwork surrounding the charges and he wasn’t listed. Mullen explained that being identified as a snitch by providing information to law enforcement could get a person in the drug world beaten up or even killed.

Harden said Mullen drove to a trailer park in Hastings and picked up three people he didn’t meet until that night — Deonte Hayes, Hayes’ girlfriend Serenity Crossfield, and the couple’s baby. The group went back to Creigh’s residence at 106 N. California Ave., where they started using alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs.

During the gathering, Harden said Hayes was talking about armed robberies he had committed. Then Mullen brought out a rifle-looking firearm from his bedroom and showed it off to the group.

Harden testified there was no discussion of the group planning to rob anyone that night, despite the previous testimony from Mullen, Creigh and Crossfield to the contrary. Hayes testified Tuesday that he couldn’t remember much about the night because he had consumed too many drugs.

Harden said that sometime between midnight and 1 a.m., Hayes had gotten sick and threw up. Harden said Hayes then went to lay down in the bedroom where Crossfield and the baby were sleeping.

Shortly after that, Harden said he left the house and walked home.

He estimated it took about 30 minutes to walk home, so he thought he would have gotten home around 1:30 a.m. He said the door to the house, which was subdivided into apartments, was locked so his roommate, Errich Holston, had to let him inside the house.

Harden said he and Holston went upstairs to their apartment, where he saw 14-year-old Laikyn Willison sleeping on the couch. Harden also said Holston’s girlfriend was asleep in her bedroom.

Harden said he turned on his PlayStation 4 and noticed the time was 2:15 a.m. He started playing a video game while chatting with Holston, but Holston later fell asleep.

A short time later, Harden testified that Dustie Martin stopped by his apartment to check on her daughter, Laikyn, and smoked marijuana with Harden.

Dustie Martin testified on Wednesday that she had gotten to the apartment between 2:20 and 2:30 a.m. She said she is good friends with Harden and stayed there about a half hour before leaving.

During cross-examination, prosecuting attorney Corey O’Brien asked Martin about her initial statement to police where she said she hadn’t seen Harden until around 3-3:30 a.m. Martin testified she didn’t think she gave that time to police.

Harden testified that at 3:24 a.m., Laikyn’s phone started ringing and the display showed Mullen was calling. Harden said he answered the phone since he didn’t own a phone and people often contacted him through other people.

“He didn’t say much,” Harden said of Mullen’s call. “He just urged me to come over.”

He said he was tired and didn’t want to leave the house, but Mullen was insistent. Harden got a ride from Martin back to Mullen’s residence. As he walked up to the house, he said Mullen was in the doorway waiting.

Harden testified Mullen opened the door and beckoned him inside. Inside, Mullen told Harden he ‘caught a body,’ which Harden took to mean that he killed somebody.

“I was shocked,” Harden said. “I didn’t know what to think.”

Mullen asked if Harden had any money, but Harden told him he didn’t. He testified that he believed Mullen wanted to sell him part of a ball of methamphetamine that he had.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Defendant Daniel Harden speaks Thursday addressing the jury at the Adams County Courthouse.

He said Mullen also asked if he was ready to go to Lincoln, which Harden said occasionally happened when Mullen was going to make drug deals and Harden often accompanied him.

Harden said he assumed they would be going to Lincoln at that time, but Mullen ended up driving Harden back to his residence.

The next day, Harden testified that Laikyn came in and asked if he had heard the news. She showed him a news article about a person being found dead in Hastings.

Shortly after, Mullen showed up at his apartment and asked if he was ready to go to Lincoln. Harden said he wasn’t really ready but wanted to listen in on any conversations about the shooting. He threw on some new clothes and got into the vehicle. Creigh, Hayes, Crossfield and the baby were also in the vehicle.

Harden said there wasn’t any talk of the shooting in the vehicle on the way, but while in Lincoln, he saw Mullen sell the gun he had shown off the previous night to another man.

Later that evening, Mullen and Creigh left. Harden said Creigh later came back and told the group Mullen had been arrested.

Harden said he called Holston and he came to Lincoln to give him a ride home.

Harden he didn’t say anything about the Mullen’s conversation about the shooting to Holston or the other friend in the vehicle.

“I didn’t want to tell anybody what he had told me,” Harden said. “It would be snitching.”

Similarly, Harden said he didn’t want to say anything when Chief Adam Story and Capt. Raelee Van Winkle from the Hastings Police Department came to speak to him in October 2017.

Harden testified Story claimed to have physical evidence and witnesses that implicated him in Hansen’s death.

“I knew there was no evidence against me in the shooting of Joey Hansen because I hadn’t been there,” Harden said. “I didn’t want to give them any inkling that I was involved in anything that night.”

Even after his arrest for murder, Harden said he was hesitant to speak with police. Story and Van Winkle again interviewed Harden within an hour of his arrest in December 2017.

Harden asked to speak to an attorney, but the officers continued to ask questions. Harden said he didn’t trust them because he felt they were lying to him. He also didn’t feel offering his alibi would have mattered at that point.

“They seemed adamant that they had the case finished,” Harden said. “Anything short of an admission of guilt I don’t think they would have listened to.”

Harden said he didn’t have any problems with Hansen and had no reason to hurt him.

Though he didn’t have a job, Harden said he wasn’t in need of money from a robbery because he had recently inherited around $11,000 from his grandfather.

He said he thought Creigh and Mullen were friends, but now believes he was mistaken. He said they decided to claim he was the shooter as a way to save themselves from more serious charges.

“I believe they are opportunists looking for an easy way out,” Harden said. “I put my trust in the wrong people. I never even suspected they would ever point the finger at me.”

During cross-examination by O’Brien, Harden at times became hostile as he continued to proclaim his innocence.

“I did not participate in any conspiracy to rob Joey Hansen,” he said.

Harden said that in hindsight, he should have been honest with police, but at the time, he was more concerned about being a snitch.

The defense rested its case Thursday. Any rebuttal evidence by prosecutors and closing statements will be made Friday before the case is submitted to the jury.

Harden is on trial for first-degree murder, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and conspiracy to commit robbery.

First-degree murder is a Class 1A felony punishable by life in prison. Use of a firearm to commit a felony is a Class 1C felony punishable by five to 50 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit robbery is a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison.


St. Michael's celebrates All Saints' Day

Rowan Vertin sat patiently in the hallway, waiting for someone to press the button that was printed on a piece of paper and hung on the wall.

When a teacher, a parent or a visitor did, he began his lines.

“I am Saint Lawrence...,” Rowan said, repeating the story of St. Lawrence, who was born in the third century, canonized and widely regarded as the saint of many professions.

Rowan was one of the fifth-graders at St. Michael’s Elementary who portrayed a saint during the wax museum portion of St. Michael’s All Saints’ Day celebration Thursday.

Each fifth-grader researched a saint through October in preparation for the day.

Gianna Rodriguez did her performance on Saint Chiara Babano, who was 18 when she passed away from bone cancer in 1990.

“I think she stayed positive before she died,” Gianna said, explaining why she chose Saint Babano.

Each fifth-grader, in addition to reciting a short biography about the saint they chose, decorated paper shields with art representing the saint.

The students also dressed up as their saint, complete with Bibles, baby dolls or swords — Saint Mary and Saint Michael were popular choices.

The students also wrote an essay on their saint for the class.

“It wasn’t that hard. We had to take notes on everything and I don’t like to write much,” said Celia Maillander, who portrayed Saint Apollonia, the patron saint of dentistry.

The wax museum was open to parents and relatives to listen to each student recite their saint’s biography, and students diligently waited for the button on the wall to be pressed before reciting.

aroh / Amy Roh/Hastings Tribune  

Kindergartner Luke Musalek participates in St. Michael Elementary School’s All Saints Day parade dressed as St. Michael Thursday.

Chelsie and Josh Hawkinson came to watch their daughter, Tatum, portray Saint Catherine LaBoure.

Chelsie said they were able to learn a lot about different saints, both from their daughter and the other students. Their son also did the same project when at St. Michael’s.

However, after about 35 minutes into the 40-minute wax museum, some students got creative with their responses.

“Out of order,” said one girl, near the end of the wax museum portion.

After the wax museum, every student at St. Michael’s joined in the All Saints’ Day parade. Each student got together with similar saints in their grade and paraded through the school’s gymnasium while each parent watched. Teachers introduced each saint that was portrayed.

All Saints’ Day is Nov. 1, but it was celebrated Thursday at St. Michael’s because of no school Friday.


Keystone oil pipeline leaks 383,000 gallons in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. — TC Energy’s Keystone pipeline has leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons of oil in northeastern North Dakota, marking the second significant spill in two years along the line that carries Canadian tar sands oil through seven states, regulators said Thursday.

Crews on Tuesday shut down the pipeline after the leak was discovered, said Karl Rockeman, North Dakota’s water quality division director. It remained closed Thursday.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company formerly known as TransCanada said in a statement that the leak affected about 22,500 square feet of land near Edinburg, in Walsh County.

The company and regulators said the cause was being investigated.

“Our emergency response team contained the impacted area and oil has not migrated beyond the immediately affected area,” the company said in a statement.

TC Energy said the area affected by the spill is less than the size of a football field and that the amount of oil released — 9,120 barrels — would approximately half fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

North Dakota regulators were notified late Tuesday of the leak. Rockeman said some wetlands were affected, but not any sources of drinking water.

Regulators have been at the site since Wednesday afternoon monitoring the spill and cleanup, he said.

Crude began flowing through the $5.2 billion pipeline in 2011. It’s designed to carry crude oil across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri on the way to refineries in Patoka, Illinois and Cushing, Oklahoma.

It can handle about 23 million gallons daily.

The pipeline spill and shutdown comes as the company seeks to build the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has drawn opposition from people who fear it will harm the environment.

President Donald Trump issued a federal permit for the expansion project in 2017, after it had been rejected by the Obama administration.

Together, the massive Keystone and Keystone XL network would be about five times the length of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

The original Keystone has experienced problems with spills in the past, including one in 2011 of more than 14,000 gallons of oil in southeastern North Dakota, near the South Dakota border. That leak was blamed on valve failure at a pumping station.

Another leak in 2016 prompted a weeklong shutdown of the pipeline. The company estimated that just under 17,000 gallons of oil spilled onto private land during that leak. Federal regulators said an “anomaly” on a weld on the pipeline was to blame. No waterways or aquifers were affected.

In 2017, the pipeline leaked an estimated 407,000 gallons of oil onto farmland in northeastern South Dakota, in a rural area near the North Dakota border. The company had originally put the spill at about 210,000 gallons.

Federal regulators said at the time that the Keystone leak was the seventh-largest onshore oil or petroleum product spill since 2010. Federal investigators said the pipeline was likely damaged during installation during 2008 and may have occurred when a vehicle drove over the pipe, causing it to weaken over time.

North Dakota’s biggest spill , and one of the largest onshore spills in U.S. history, came in 2013, when 840,000 gallons spilled from a Tesoro pipeline in the northwestern part of the state. The company spent five years and nearly $100 million cleaning it up.

The Sierra Club said the latest spill was an example of why the Keystone XL should not be built.

“We don’t yet know the extent of the damage from this latest tar sands spill, but what we do know is that this is not the first time this pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won’t be the last.”

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took to Twitter on Thursday to condemn the pipeline and Trump for supporting the extension of it.

Sanders said he would shut down the existing pipeline if elected.


House passes rules for impeachment probe

WASHINGTON — Democrats swept a rules package for their impeachment probe of President Donald Trump through a divided House Thursday, as the chamber’s first vote on the investigation highlighted the partisan breach the issue has only deepened.

By 232-196, lawmakers approved the procedures they’ll follow as weeks of closed-door interviews with witnesses evolve into public committee hearings and — almost certainly — votes on whether the House should recommend Trump’s removal.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais 

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., right, speaks to members of the media as Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, looks on as they arrive for closed door meeting to hear testimony from Tim Morrison, a former senior National Security Council official, in the House impeachment inquiry about President Donald Trump's efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.

All voting Republicans opposed the package. Every voting Democrat but two supported it.

Underscoring the pressure Trump has heaped on his party’s lawmakers, he tweeted, “Now is the time for Republicans to stand together and defend the leader of their party against these smears.”

Yet the roll call also accentuated how Democrats have rallied behind the impeachment inquiry after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent months urging caution until evidence and public support had grown.

She and other Democratic leaders had feared a premature vote would wound the reelection prospects of dozens of their members, including freshmen and lawmakers from Trump-won districts or seats held previously by Republicans.

But recent polls have shown voters’ growing receptivity to the investigation and, to a lesser degree, ousting Trump.

That and evidence that House investigators have amassed have helped unify Democrats, including those from GOP areas.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., center, join by fellow Republican lawmakers speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. Democrats rammed a package of ground rules for their impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump through a sharply divided House.

Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said she was supporting a pathway to giving “the American people the facts they deserve,” while Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., said voters warrant “the uninhibited truth.”

Yet Republicans were also buoyed by polling, which has shown that GOP voters stand unflinchingly behind Trump.

“The impeachment-obsessed Democrats just flushed their majority down the toilet,” said Michael McAdams, a spokesman for House Republicans’ campaign arm.

Elsewhere at the Capitol on Thursday, three House panels led by the Intelligence Committee questioned their latest witness into the allegations that led to the impeachment inquiry: that Trump pressured Ukraine to produce dirt on his Democratic political rivals by withholding military aid and an Oval Office meeting craved by the country’s new president.

Tim Morrison, who stepped down from the National Security Council the day before his appearance, testified — still behind closed doors — that he saw nothing illegal in Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president that is at the center of the Democrat-led investigation.

Yet, Morrison also largely confirmed much of what William Taylor, the highest-ranking U.S. official in Ukraine, said in earlier, highly critical testimony about the call, which Taylor said he and Morrison discussed several times.

The Democrats are still waiting to hear if Morrison’s one-time boss, John Bolton, will testify. They have subpoenaed former national security adviser Bolton, who quit the administration after disagreements with Trump over his handling of Ukraine.

In the House inquiry vote, the only Democratic “no” votes were by Reps. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey freshman, and veteran Collin Peterson of Minnesota, one of the House’s most conservative Democrats. Both are battling for reelection in Republican-leaning districts.

Also supporting the rules was independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who left the GOP this year after announcing he was open to considering Trump’s impeachment.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says Democrats are abusing their power and discrediting democracy by "trying to impeach the president because they are scared they can't defeat him at the ballot box."

Thursday’s House debate was laced with high-minded appeals to defend the Constitution and Congress’ independence, as well as partisan taunts.

“What are we fighting for? Defending our democracy,” said Pelosi. She addressed lawmakers with a poster of the American flag beside her and opened her comments by reading from the preamble to the Constitution.

She also said the rules would let lawmakers decide whether to impeach Trump “based on the truth. I don’t know why the Republicans are afraid of the truth.”

But her counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California cast the process as a skewed attempt to railroad a president whom Democrats have detested since before he took office.

“Democrats are trying to impeach the president because they are scared they cannot defeat him at the ballot box,” he said.

No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise, R-La., accused Democrats of imposing “Soviet-style rules.” His backdrop was a bright red poster depicting the Soviet hammer and sickle emblem and the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square.

The House is at least weeks away from deciding whether to vote on actually impeaching Trump. If it does, the Senate would hold a trial on whether to remove him from office. That GOP-run chamber seems highly likely to keep him in the White House.

Susan Walsh 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., likened Democrats to a “cult,” accusing them of bouncing from “one outlandish conspiracy theory to another.” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., pointedly said she looked forward to Republicans “prioritizing country over party, just as we took an oath to do.”

Democrats said the procedures are similar to rules used during the impeachment proceedings of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Pelosi decided to have the vote following a GOP drumbeat that the inquiry was tainted because lawmakers hadn’t voted to formally commence the work. The rules direct House committees “to continue their ongoing investigations” of Trump.

Democrats hope Thursday’s vote will undercut GOP assertions that the process has been invalid. They’ve noted that there is no constitutional provision or House rule requiring such a vote.

The rules require the House Intelligence Committee — now leading the investigation — to issue a report and release transcripts of its closed-door interviews, which members of both parties have attended.

The Judiciary Committee would then decide whether to recommend that the House impeach Trump.

Republicans could only issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear if the committees holding the hearings approve them — in effect giving Democrats veto power.

Attorneys for Trump could participate in the Judiciary Committee proceedings. Democrats would retain leverage by empowering panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to deny requests by Trump representatives to call witnesses if the White House continues to “unlawfully refuse” to provide testimony or documents Congress demands.