Prominent Democrats in North Dakota donated to the legal defense fund of a man accused of attacking a Republican senator’s office with an axe.
North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party chairwoman Kylie Oversen, party official Ellie Shockley and former lieutenant gubernatorial contender Ellen Chaffee gave money to support 30-year-old Thomas “Tas” Alexander Starks. Starks, of Lisbon, N.D., is a far-left activist who was arrested and charged over a Dec. 21 axe attack on Sen. John Hoeven’s office in downtown Fargo. The shocking incident was caught on video.
Laura Starks, the suspect’s wife, started a GoFundMe account to support his legal defense fees. Over 60 donors have contributed more than $8,000 out of the campaign's $15,000 goal.
“Tas makes his political statements openly and non-violently,” reads the campaign.
Police identified Starks after authorities received several tips from his coworkers at Bobcat in Gwinner, N.D. Stark’s colleague told police he was "very active in protests."
Kylie Oversen, the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party chairwoman, donated $100 to Stark’s fund, although her name has since been removed. She told KFYR-TV that her donation does not reflect her views and that it was made “without considering innocence or guilt."
“Compassion isn’t something I’m ashamed of,” she tweeted.
Ellie Shockley, who represents southwest North Dakota on the executive committee for ND Dem-NPL’s gifted $500 to Starks. She promoted the fund multiple times on social media due to her personal relationship with the Starks family, whom she acknowledged she knows from both her involvement in unions and activism.
“I do not regret caring about a young family in my life. Life is pretty meaningless without real relationships with other people. I will never apologize for trying to be there when a family needed it,” Shockley wrote on Facebook, insisting that she believes in “rehabilitation, not retribution.”
Shockley contributes monthly to the Bismarck Tribune’s editorial page as a community columnist. She is also an active member of North Dakota United and serves on the North Dakota Women’s Network board.
Ellen Chaffee, who helped lead the 2018 measure that created the state's new ethics commission, donated $100 to the fund. She has also served as the president for Valley City State University and Mayville State University.
North Dakota Republican Party chairman Rick Berg criticized the Democrat leaders who donated to the fund.
“It is inexcusable that Chairwoman Overson [sic] would be personally involved in supporting a far-left extremist whose violent actions constitute an assault on our democracy,” Berg said in a Jan. 6 press release.
Security footage caught a man who resembles Starks walking down the hallway of Hoeven’s office building around 9 a.m. on Dec. 21. He swings the axe multiple times, shattering the suite’s glass windows.
His bail was set at $5,000, which was paid. Starks could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the felony criminal mischief charge. He also faces an additional charge of damage to government property. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24 and his felony dispositional conference is set for March 25.
Stark’s case is being investigated by the FBI, the Fargo Police Department and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.