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.

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. A misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge will be dismissed.

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

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

The investigation into Backman said he allegedly reported finding drug-related items during his work as a narcotics officer, but some items were not logged into evidence, court documents showed.

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Investigators also found drug paraphernalia in Backman’s desk and locker, a criminal complaint alleged.

Backman’s alleged actions resulted in prosecutors dismissing several drug cases against others he 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.

A sentencing hearing had not been set as of Tuesday morning.

Cody James Freitag
Cody James Freitag

Freitag is scheduled to go to trial in late June on several charges connected to the chase, including two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide.