Attorney General Marty Jackley’s announcement Tuesday that Janice Howe of Harrold pled guilty to one charge of petition perjury sounded darned peculiar:
Charges stem from the circulation and attempted filing of petition sheets on a petition to amend the Constitution. Howe was charged by Complaint on January 31, 2002. The charges allege that Howe verified under oath that she had personally witnessed signatures on the petition sheets when she had not. Howe was arrested in July 2015 on an arrest warrant issued after the filing of the complaint. Two other individuals were charged with similar offenses relating to the same petition. Their cases have been resolved through the judicial system [Attorney General Marty Jackley, press release, 2015.08.18].
The original complaint came from Bob Newland, Libertarian and marijuana advocate who is currently petitioning to put bans on alcohol and tobacco on the 2016 ballot. Newland says he hired Howe to circulate petitions for him in 1999 for a constitutional amendment that would have allowed defendants to argue the merits of the laws under which they are being charged and sentenced. The electorate turned down that measure in 2002, 78% to 22%.
Newland tells me he smelled forgery in the sheets Howe circulated for him. He did not include those sheets in the petition submitted to the Secretary of State to place the amendment on the ballot. He did point the apparent forgery out to the Secretary of State’s office and then-Attorney General Mark Barnett. That was the last he heard of the matter.
Thirteen years and three attorney generals later, the state finally busts Janice Howe. What gives? Howe was on the Crow Creek Reservation, which raises jurisdictional issues, but she hasn’t kept a low profile. The state has known exactly where to find her and, even with her outstanding warrant, has authorized her for six years to serve as a quasi-foster parent:
In fact, for the past six years, Howe has been certified by the state social services as a “kinship peer parent,” which authorizes her to have Indian children related to her in her home as a sort of foster care arrangement, her attorney, Bradley Schreiber, told Judge Brown [Stephen Lee, “Crow Creek Woman Gets Plea Deal on 1999 Petition Crimes,” Pierre Capital Journal, 2015.08.19].
Howe, whose father was a nephew of artist Oscar Howe, figured prominently in Laura Sullivan’s damning 2011 NPR report on South Dakota’s questionable treatment of Native American foster children. That report coincided with the ugly and complicated Mette-Schwab-Taliaferro case in Aberdeen, in which Attorney General Marty Jackley appeared to go easy on a state-approved foster father who raped at least one Native American children placed in his care by the state while allowing prosecutors to trump up charges against the local advocates who tried to protect the children and expose that abuse.
Janice Howe’s husband, Louis Adrian, and one of her sons, Darice Fire Cloud, allege politics motivated this prosecution:
Howe’s activism against the state of South Dakota over how Native American children are handled in adoption and foster care situations put her on the opposite side of Attorney General Marty Jackley, Fire Cloud and Adrian said after her arraignment Tuesday.
“I think it’s all political,” said Fire Cloud. “Jackley is just giving her a hard time.”
…“It is Jackley,” said Louis Adrian. “He’s the one who wants to get pay back from her” [Lee, 2015.08.18].
Adrian’s and Fire Cloud’s allegation sounds much like what we’ve heard from Annette Bosworth, that her prosecution for petition perjury was political persecution. Bosworth’s husband Chad Haber milked the foster care and Mette rape case for political attention in his ridiculous campaign for Attorney General in 2014. Bosworth cultists could easily portray A.G. Jackley’s sudden interest in Howe as an effort to manufacture political cover for his prosecution of her petition perjury and an ongoing effort to punish foster care critics.
But even without the prospect of odious spin from Team Bosworth (and really, Bosworth’s backers will spin anything any way they want, so there’s no point in trying to check our words to avoid their foolishness), I can’t quite pull the trigger and say Howe’s long-delayed arrest and guilty plea constitute rank corruption in the Capitol. Incompetence, maybe—the suspect lives less than an hour from Pierre, she’s in the press and in your social services documents with a current address, and you can’t catch her on a Walmart run off reservation land for thirteen years?—but not quite political corruption. Howe had more than petition perjury on her record: she also pled guilty Tuesday to forging $13,000 worth of checks back in 2000. The question is not why is the state prosecuting Janice Howe; the question is why Attorneys General Barnett, Long, and Jackley didn’t prosecute her sooner.
Related: Janice Howe appears to have interacted with a Hughes County deputy in 2012 concerning the shooting of her sister’s dogs by Muslim Canadian ranchers on the Crow Creek reservation.