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Otter Tail County deputy to plead guilty to being on drugs during deadly chase

Kelly Douglas Backman, 43, signed a plea agreement on Sunday, May 23, that calls for 30 days of electronic home monitoring for the early October chase, according to court documents filed Monday.

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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — An Otter Tail County Sheriff’s deputy will plead guilty to a misconduct charge that says he was on drugs during a deadly vehicle pursuit last year in Fergus Falls, Minn.

Kelly Douglas Backman, 43, signed a plea agreement on Sunday, May 23, that calls for 30 days of electronic home monitoring for the early October chase, according to court documents filed Monday, May 24. A misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge will be dismissed.

Backman was charged in February after an investigation revealed he had fentanyl in his system when he and another deputy tried to arrest 31-year-old Cody James Freitag of Barrett, Minn., on Oct. 2 in Fergus Falls. Freitag fled when he saw the officers at a gas station, a criminal complaint said.

Deputy Michael Wing’s cruiser was disabled, but Backman continued the pursuit before Freitag ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle, according to the complaint. The crash killed husband Steve Christianson, 72, and wife Diane Christianson, 71.

Backman reported finding drug-related items during his work as a narcotics officer, but some items were not logged into evidence, court documents showed. Investigators also found drug paraphernalia in Backman’s desk and locker, according to a criminal complaint.

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Prosecutors dismissed several drug cases Backman investigated because he would be considered an unreliable witness in court.

If a judge accepts the plea to the gross misdemeanor count of misconduct by the officer, Backman is expected to begin his sentence as early as June 15. He could face up to 365 days in jail if he violates the conditions of his plea agreement.

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