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Former Bemidji Assistant Principal Sentenced on Child Porn Charges

Created: February 07, 2018 12:17 PM

A respected and trusted former assistant principal at Bemidji Middle School admitted he took advantage of children he supervised.

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Federal judge Wilhelmina Wright sentenced Brandon Bjerknes on Tuesday to 25 years in prison. She spoke directly to him during sentencing:

"You are a predator. You used your position of power to exploit children. You preyed and victimized 55 children ... for your deviant sexual desires."

Wright also told him his "evil and egregious" crimes caused such harm to the children that it could take them years to heal.

Bjerknes, 35, pleaded guilty in September to using fake Facebook and Snapchat accounts to pose as a teenage boy named Brett Larson.

He used that profile to have sexual conversations and exchange pornographic videos with girls 12-14 years old. Prosecutors said the girls believed he was their boyfriend.

The girls' parents said he preyed on children with mental health issues. He knew his victims. He was their assistant principal and teacher.

The parents of a 14-year-old girl who found such messages and called the Beltrami County Sheriff's Department told the judge that Bjerknes took advantage of their daughter's speech delay issues.

They said she was already cutting herself, but her interaction with Bjerknes eventually lead to an escalation of her cutting behavior.

"He preyed on my daughter's low self-esteem. He knew she had no friends. He sexually abused her ... without touching her," the parents said.

Said the mother of another girl: "My daughter was repeatedly victimized." She then told Bjerknes, "You have perverted her idea of a relationship. You took what you knew about my daughter to feed your sickness."

The mother of two sisters who became Bjerknes' victims read one of her daughter's words in court.

"We have gone through so much for your sexual sickness. I cut myself. I blamed myself," the girl wrote.

Her mother said one of her daughters repeatedly tried to kill herself after Bjerknes was arrested. She was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. She was taken out of her home and transferred to 30 different treatment centers before she was civilly committed.

"I miss her," the girl's mom told the judge.

She said her daughter's emotional issues had ripple effects in her family. Her marriage fell apart, she lost her job in order to take care of her children, and her daughters were emotionally traumatized.

Bjerknes told the judge he accepted responsibility for his actions. He said he could understand, as a father of two children, how difficult it is for parents to forgive him for hurting their children. He said "my behavior disgusts me. I hope the victims can heal."

His lawyer, Peter Wold, said, "He was a sick young man, he needs to deal with that and he's had the courage to confront those demons."

Wold asked Judge Wright if Bjerknes could serve his sentence in Minnesota to be closer to his children. She granted that request.

He will also have to pay restitution to his victims.

Bjerknes has been in counseling as part of his treatment. His attorney says he will continue to undergo therapy for mental illness while in prison.


Copyright 2018 KSTP-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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