A retired longtime North Dakota lawmaker has been arrested and charged with traveling to Prague with the intent to rape a minor, according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday.
Ex-Republican state Sen. Ray Holmberg was also charged with one count of receiving and attempting to receive images depicting child sexual abuse, according to the indictment, which was filed Thursday in federal court in North Dakota. He was taken into custody on Monday in Grand Forks, according to an arrest warrant.
The indictment accuses the 79-year-old Holmberg of traveling from his home state to the Czech Republic from about June 2011 to November 2016 with intent to rape a person under the age of 18. The indictment does not say whether Holmberg traveled to Prague once during that time period or multiple times.
The allegations that he received or attempted to receive images that depict child sexual abuse range from November 2012 to March 2013. The indictment also alleges he used aliases.
Holmberg served more than 45 years in the North Dakota Senate until his resignation last year, after local media outlet The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead revealed he exchanged dozens of text messages with a person who was jailed on charges related to child sexual abuse images.
Holmberg’s attorney, Mark Friese, said he was not immediately available for comment. A text message sent to Holmberg was not immediately returned and voicemail on his phone was not set up, so a message could not be left.
Holmberg’s initial court appearance was scheduled for Monday afternoon. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in North Dakota planned to issue a news release but otherwise declined to comment, spokesperson Terry Van Horn said.
Holmberg, a retired school counselor, chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which writes budgets. He announced in March 2022 he wouldn’t seek reelection. He cited stress and “a weakened ability to concentrate on the matters at hand and effectively recall events” before ultimately resigning.
Former North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner told The Associated Press he was saddened and disappointed by the indictment.
“Here’s a situation where a man was a public servant and did a lot of positive things for the state of North Dakota, and now, I don’t know what’s going to come of this thing, but this really neutralizes all the good,” said Wardner, a Republican who served in the Senate with Holmberg for nearly 25 years.
If Holmberg is convicted, his decades serving the public “will be forgotten about, and only the negative things will be remembered,” Wardner said.
Current Senate Majority Leader David Hogue, who also was a colleague of Holmberg, declined to comment on the indictment.
Holmberg was reimbursed roughly $126,000 for nearly 70 out-of-state trips from 2013 through mid-April 2022 to places that included four dozen U.S. cities, as well as China, Canada, Puerto Rico and several European countries, according to an AP review of his travel records.
Law enforcement searched his Grand Forks home in November 2021, seizing video discs and additional items.
The indictment comes after Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier pleaded guilty last month in federal court to six counts of possessing images depicting child sexual abuse and one count of receiving and distributing such images. According to The Forum’s reporting, Morgan-Derosier was the person texting with Holmberg from jail.
Morgan-Derosier is scheduled to be sentenced in January. A spokesperson for the two federal public defenders who represented Morgan-Derosier did not immediately respond to a phone message regarding his case.