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Report: Sen.’s Son Escaped Charges

November 15, 1999

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Authorities deny they showed any favoritism by not charging or even interrogating a U.S. senator’s son who allegedly was driving a car in which more than two ounces of marijuana was found, the Star Tribune reported.

Morgan Grams, the 21-year-old son of Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., was stopped in July by deputies in suburban Anoka County, the newspaper reported.

Morgan Grams was driving without a license and was on probation for underage drinking, the newspaper said. He was driven home in Chief Deputy Peter Beberg’s car, the paper said.

A teen-age passenger pleaded guilty to a drug charge.

The senator had asked deputies to find his son after learning that the young man had borrowed a rental car and failed to return it, the paper said in Sunday editions.

The elder Grams issued a statement Sunday night denying that he sought preferential treatment for his son.

``When I learned he might be in trouble, I asked the authorities to find him _ and that’s all I asked for,″ Grams said.

``Obviously neither Morgan nor I are proud of these events,″ he said in the statement. ``My son has struggled with addiction and behavioral problems for years and has received treatment for these problems.″

There was no additional comment from the senator today. A call to his Washington office was not immediately returned.

The county’s chief deputy attorney, Robert Parta, said he would review the matter with County Attorney Robert Johnson. He said that if it appears Grams got preferential treatment, the matter likely would be referred to an outside agency for investigation.

State Attorney General Mike Hatch said that if there was preferential treatment, Morgan Grams could still be questioned and charged.

According to police reports, Beberg found Grams driving a sport utility vehicle the evening of July 14.

Another deputy who arrived 10 minutes later, Todd Diegnau, found nine quarter-ounce bags of marijuana on a 17-year-old passenger after he saw the youth stash something in his pants. Diegnau also reported finding a 10th bag under Grams’ seat.

The 17-year-old pleaded guilty to drug possession and spent more than a month in a juvenile detention center.

Under Grams’ probation for underage drinking, a judge had ordered him not to possess alcohol or mood-altering drugs, and a probation violation could have triggered a three-month jail sentence, the newspaper said.

Beer cans were also found in the car. Beberg said the cans were full and unopened, including one at Grams’ feet, but the Star Tribune said a worker at the rental car agency said that when the vehicle was returned there were ``five or six″ empties under the seats.

Beberg said he didn’t learn about the bag under Grams’ seat until he recently read Diegnau’s report.

Beberg defended his actions.

``If there would have been a charge I could have made at that time, I don’t care if it was Morgan or Rod Grams himself, I would have made that arrest,″ Beberg told the newspaper.

Anoka County Sheriff Larry Podany backed Beberg, saying the priority was checking on Grams’ welfare.

Less than two weeks after the incident, Morgan Grams allegedly stole a car and purse from a woman he took to a nightclub, according to a complaint filed last week. He was convicted in 1996 of gross misdemeanors for stealing an aunt’s television and later that year of stalking and making harassing phone calls to one of his sister’s girlfriends.

The elder Grams, a onetime television anchorman, was elected to the Senate in 1994 after two years in the House of Representatives.

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