The landowner in the now-infamous “I own the f*cking land” video reached a plea agreement with the state of North Dakota on March 27. As part of that agreement, landowner Jeffrey Erman pleaded guilty to the charges of disorderly conduct-obscenity and interference with the rights of hunters and trappers—both class B misdemeanors.
Eddy County state’s attorney Ashley Lies tells Outdoor Life that the prosecution decided to drop the third charge of trading in special influence during Monday’s plea hearing. A class A misdemeanor, trading in special influence is considered a type of bribery under North Dakota law, and it is punishable by up to 360 days in prison and up to $3,000 in fines.
“After discussing it with his attorney and doing some research into the legislative history of the charge, I did feel it was inappropriate,” Lies says. “I think it would be [applicable] if he were bribing an official directly, instead of just offering to influence the game warden.”
As for sentencing related to the other two misdemeanors, Lies says the judge ordered Erman to pay a total of $675 in fines. He also revoked Erman’s hunting privileges for a year. Because Erman had no prior criminal history, the judge offered him a “deferred imposition of sentence” that hinges on an unsupervised probationary period of 360 days. If he stays out of trouble during that time, the two convictions will be taken off his criminal record.
One of the hunters was also charged with a misdemeanor criminal trespassing. Dustin Brown pleaded guilty to that charge on Dec. 30 and paid the court-ordered fines of $250. The case against Brown was closed on Jan. 12, according to the New Rockford Transcript.
How a Viral Duck-Hunting Video Led to Multiple Criminal Charges
The original dispute took place in Eddy County, North Dakota, on Oct. 21. It was recorded on video by Jacob Sweere, one of the hunters in the group who also has a hunting YouTube channel. The video quickly went viral, and it has since been viewed nearly 3 million times. It shows Erman approaching the hunters around sunrise and proceeding to berate them for trespassing and ruining his own hunt. The hunters had already shot a couple ducks by this point. In the video, Erman claims the group’s A-frame blind is encroaching on his property line.
“You gotta stay a foot off [the section line],” Erman says after driving up to the blind in a side-by-side. “I was gonna hunt here this morning, but I heard you guys were coming. I own the fucking land.”
The situation deteriorates after the hunters claim they had permission to set up on the neighboring bean field. Erman goes berserk, launching into an obscenity-laced tirade and blowing up their hunt. At one point during the roughly 30-minute video clip, Erman tells the group he’ll leave them alone if they give him some money.
“Three hundred dollars and you can shoot all you want,” Erman says. “Cash money right now on the barrel head and I’ll walk away and call the [game warden] and tell him not to come,” Erman says. The hunters declined to pay Erman, and a game warden arrived at the field later that morning to defuse the situation.
When considering charges last fall, state prosecutors determined that Erman’s request for money amounted to a bribe request. And since the request involved a public servant (in this case, a game warden), they decided to charge Erman with a class A misdemeanor trading in special influence.
On Nov. 8, the state filed two additional misdemeanor charges against Erman: interfering with the rights of hunters and trappers, and disorderly conduct-obscenity. Erman pleaded not guilty to all three charges initially, but then changed his plea as part of an agreement on March 20, court documents show.
As mentioned, the state also charged Dustin Brown, one of the hunters involved, with criminal trespassing on Nov. 9. Brown, a North Dakota resident from West Fargo, initially pleaded not guilty, then amended his plea to guilty on Dec. 30. As part of that plea agreement, Brown explained that he had permission to hunt the property neighboring Erman’s cornfield, but that he made a mistake by setting up near the property line without Erman’s explicit permission. Brown’s plea agreement stipulates that his guilty plea will be withdrawn (and the case will be dismissed) after a period of 180 days.
“I had been provided notice to avoid hunting on a specific patch of land within that larger piece of land,” Brown admitted in the plea agreement. “Before placing my blind, I had not determined with certainty that I was not on that patch of land; It turned out that I was on that patch of land.”
North Dakota is one of the only states that allows individuals to walk on or hunt private property that is not posted against trespassing. These postings became more nuanced in 2021, when the state legislature passed a law allowing landowners to post their lands electronically via an online database.
Regardless of the posting status of Erman’s land, however, Brown acknowledged that he failed to heed the advice of the landowner who gave them permission to hunt that day.
Erman’s son, also named Dustin, told reporters in October that he believed the hunters had provoked Jeffrey and then edited the video footage to make it look like they were innocent.
“They were told to stay away from that area,” Dustin told the Grand Forks Herald. “Also, that video, these guys hunt, and they do videos all the time, they edit [stuff] all the time. They edited out every single thing they said to provoke [him] to get to that point.”
Sweere has denied this allegation, claiming that he turned over all the uncut footage to the state during its investigation.
This article was updated on March 28 to include comments from Eddy County state’s attorney Ashley Lies.
This content was originally published here.