Vargo: Amendment S Unnecessary, Counterproductive

Jason Glodt tells public radio he’s about to launch a six-figure radio campaign to promote Amendment S, California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas’s crime victims bill of rights. Glodt’s going to need it, because one of the smartest lawyers I know, Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo, tells public radio that Amendment S is a mess. Vargo says Amendment S defines “victim” too broadly (the definition in the amendment includes “extended family members”, a change from the existing statutory definition of victim, which includes “the members of the immediate family of the primary victim” only if the victim does not survive the crime in question). Vargo says Amendment S also extends protections to victims of petty theft and other small-time crimes (current crime victims rights extend to victims of crimes of violence, domestic abuse, stalking, and DUI). The net effect, says Vargo, will be that prosecutors and public resources will be stretched far too thin, leaving all crime victims with less protection.

SDPB doesn’t have the text of Vargo’s statements up yet, but Vargo offered a similar critique on KOTA-TV last month, saying that the new statewide victim notification network will address some victim needs and that most of Amendment S is unnecessary:

Vargo says Amendment S is a “California solution looking for a South Dakota problem.”

“We are dealing with our victims in a way that makes sense for our state. Marsy’s Law broadly expands the definition of a victim beyond the people that actually need to be served. And so broadly expands the definition of the crimes that are covered that the victims of the most serious crimes would actually get less servicing if Marsy’s Law is passed,” said Vargo.

Vargo says the state won’t have the time to help those who really need it if they’re spending time working on cases that aren’t as serious [Melea VanOstrand, “Amendment S on November Ballot,” KOTA-TV, 2016.08.17].

State’s Attorney Vargo is as interested in protecting his constituents from crime and punishing those who commit crimes as anyone else in Pennington County. If he says he won’t be able to do his job as well if we saddle him with Amendment S, maybe we should listen.