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Representative for lawyer accused in murder conspiracy might file suit against drug task force

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FARGO, North Dakota — The representative for a Grand Forks attorney who was accused and then cleared of conspiring to kill a confidential informant said Tuesday he plans to investigate a drug task force now that the key witness in the case has been sentenced to prison.

Henry Howe, 73, a longtime criminal defense attorney, was charged in January with murder conspiracy, which was later downgraded to tampering with a witness. A judge threw out the case after Howe's lawyer, David Thompson, argued that witness Steven Anderson made up the allegations.

Anderson was sentenced Monday to seven years for felony theft, after a prosecutor called him a career con artist with a history of forgery and theft convictions. Anderson's public defender was not available for comment.

Thompson told The Associated Press Tuesday he was waiting for Anderson's sentencing before pursuing action against a Grand Forks narcotics task force that initiated the case against Howe. That might include a civil suit against the group, which Thompson said wanted to get even with Howe for his zealous defense of drug cases.

"Henry is the guy who would try cases of the person who was meth dealer with three priors who was going down for life," Thompson said. "Henry would more often than not win, or get evidence suppressed and then he'd win."

The task force has referred questions in the case to the state attorney general's office, which was closed on Tuesday.

Howe, described by Thompson as eccentric, has a history of run-ins with the state Supreme Court, including suspensions in 1977, 2001 and earlier this year when he was barred from practicing for six months for failing to provide proper representation in an immigration case. The court ordered an emergency suspension after the conspiracy charge and lifted it after Howe was cleared.

Thompson said the task force used Anderson, a man with a history of lying to investigators, to get to Howe. Anderson made up a murder-for-hire plot in Becker County, Minnesota, in 2003, and falsely claimed a fellow inmate in a Nebraska jail wanted to hire a hit man in 2004, Thompson said.

Thompson said he's pursuing whether the task force can be held liable for damages to Howe.

"These guys are completely out of control," Thompson said.

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