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Bosworth Attorney Charges Jackley with Political Motivations for Phelps Prosecution

Stacy Phelps
Stacy Phelps, getting his money’s worth from attorney Dana Hanna

Lawyer Dana Hanna continues to wage public war on behalf of his client Stacy Phelps, one of the three defendants named this week in criminal cases stemming from the GEAR UP/Mid-Central corruption scandal. After accusing Attorney General Marty Jackley of opening the Wednesday press conference announcing the charges against Phelps and others with an Establishment Clause-violating prayer to “manipulate the public,” Hanna sharpens his point and says exactly what I said he was saying in my initial analysis: Jackley is trying to distract the public from his own failure to catch the GEAR UP crooks sooner—

The defense attorney for a Rapid City man facing felony charges from a financial investigation of South Dakota’s GEAR UP grant program argued Thursday that his client is a political scapegoat for a state and an attorney general that allowed taxpayer dollars to be stolen.

…Phelps’ defense attorney, Dana Hanna, said his client is not accused of theft, adding that the charges for falsifying evidence are “groundless.”

“The guy who did this is dead,” Hanna said. “Now they’re looking for scapegoats to take attention from the fact that the state was sleeping while Westerhuis stole $1 million from the taxpayers” [James Nord, “Defense Attorney Fires Back Against GEAR UP-Related Charges,” AP via Rapid City Journal, 2016.03.18].

Dana Hanna, right, exits the Hughes County Courthouse with fellow attorney Robert Van Norman (center). (Photo by Phu Nguyen, Pierre Capital Journal, 2015.05.21.)
Dana Hanna, right, exits the Hughes County Courthouse with fellow attorney Robert Van Norman (center) while client Annette Bosworth (left) keeps her eye out for the camera, as usual. (Photo by Phu Nguyen, Pierre Capital Journal, 2015.05.21.)

Hanna has some practice bashing our Attorney General over the head with charges of politically motivated prosecutions. Hanna also represents Annette Bosworth, who is currently appealing her conviction on twelve felony counts related to falsifying her nominating her petitions. Hanna sprinkled court arguments with Team Bosworth’s guiding smokescreen that the charges against Bosworth were driven by the politics of Republican and Democratic opponents (what do they call that when someone thinks everyone is out to get her?).

The only people buying that argument are ammosexual trolls with posters of Wonder Woman and Xena on their walls. In Bosworth’s case, the crimes committed had nothing to do with taxpayer money, state contracts and oversight, or anyone who posed a viable threat to the GOP establishment. Bosworth and her husband falsified petitions, a citizen caught and reported the crime right away, and the Attorney General investigated and arrested Bosworth with relative alacrity. If anything, A.G. Jackley did Bosworth a political favor (albeit grounded in standard prosecutorial practice) by delaying his arrest until after the primary election.

But in Phelps’s case, accusations of political distraction and cover-up may have more legs. Hanna is asking the question we all should ask: why did it take so long for the Attorney General to notice the theft of huge amounts of taxpayer money in Platte? Why were state contracts being issued to an educational cooperative whose books didn’t line up for nine years? How does the Secretary of Education notice “incompetence” in bookkeeping at Mid-Central in 2012 but not connect the dots to recognize, report, and cut off criminal corruption until three years later?

If I were an investigator and I’d failed to ask questions and identify a pattern of corruption this big and this long-standing, I’d feel pretty sheepish. I’d certainly want the public to focus their outrage on the criminals and not pay much attention to the questions defense attorney Hanna could ask about my own sleeping at the switch.

If I were defense attorney Hanna, facing what looks like another uphill climb against strong evidence finally collected and presented by the state, I’d throw this charge and ask why out of all the state officials who made the corruption at Mid-Central possible, the only one Jackley is gunning for so far is one Indian who had a little entrée into the GOP establishment before Governor Daugaard set him up on the firing line last fall. I wouldn’t feel nearly as silly making that charge in this case as I would have in Bosworth’s case.

If I were Dan Guericke and Stephanie Hubers, the Mid-Central officials now on the firing line with Phelps for GEAR UP crimes, I might be asking why my lawyers aren’t pushing back as hard as Hanna… but if I were the rest of us (wait! I am! Sorry—parallel subjunctive overload!), I might read that lack of pushback as a sign that Guericke and Hubers plan to sing and let others do the hard time.


  1. mike from iowa 2016-03-19 09:17

    With Jackley’s past record,one can legitimately wonder whether any charges would have been filed in the Westerhuis case had not the end been so tragic and messy. Or aren’t us iowans allowed to wonder about SD politics as usual? :)

  2. private richard 2016-03-19 10:59

    As a wise plumber once said “… flows downhill and payday’s Friday.”

    Easy with the snake, Marty.

  3. Tim 2016-03-19 12:02

    Jackley will only do what he has to do to be able to stand back and say…See, I prosecute corruption, make me your next Governor! Anybody expecting more from him are fools.

  4. mike from iowa 2016-03-19 12:16

    How long dis Cory rock the boat before Jackley finally charged Bos? Seemed like decades to me.

  5. Rorschach 2016-03-19 16:58

    The evidence against Phelps seems pretty solid to me. Aside from the part about his client being innocent, Mr. Hanna’s arguments seem pretty solid too. Melody Schopp and her Department of Education, and the folks auditing the books, and the board of MCEC, and everybody else all look incompetent. As usual it seems like Jackley’s job is to protect those high up in the administration. He’s not going to ask the tough questions about Melody Schopp,the DOE, and numerous conflicts of interest. But fortunately Cory and the press aren’t giving it a pass.

  6. jake 2016-03-20 09:34

    Let’s hope the ‘main’ press in our state does more than their typical ‘we’ll wait ’til we get more “info” from the state officials as to how to report on this”. Investigative reporting in SD is a misnomer mostly because main-stream press will not ruffle political feathers much because they depend so much on the advertising dollars in their papers. If we would only tax advertising in our state this could change–and benefit the state in sales tax income.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-20 15:46

    Mike, DCI actually moved pretty quickly on the evidence I provided. They charged and arrested Bosworth two months after I submitted my affidavit to the Secretary of State. It took a year to get to trial in part because of Bosworth’s difficulties in finding a lawyer.

    Ror, that is a useful distinction to make. Both Jackley and Hanna could be speaking the truth: Phelps could be guilty of felony falsification, and the state could be guilty of gross incompetence, negligence, and nepotism.

  8. mike from iowa 2016-03-20 16:17

    Could be,Master,but it was patently obvious Bos was not playing by the rules. It shouldn’t have taken that long to corral her. And,again I have to wonder,if anything would have been done if you hadn’t taken the time and energy to look into her dealings?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-20 16:54

    The raffles; the mingling of personal, professional, and campaign staff; oh, Mike! Don’t get me started on all that again!

  10. leslie 2016-03-22 06:31

    cory, winning is everything. the cost to stacy may be phenomenal to most of us. he’s been making some money, but I can assure you $200-500 an hour for one, maybe two defense lawyers and perhaps some paralegals at half the rate, it builds up to perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars quickly, and if the case moves slowly, with lots of discovery and a determined prosecution, stacy is in for another or continued roller coaster ride of sheer terror. his assets may be subject to lawyers lien and substantial up front money is likely. lawyers often don’t appreciate the stress their clients must endure, waiting, agonizing on every turn of their future of freedom. Bosworth now knows, over a relatively innocuous but criminal act. Stacy might even be subject to civil suit from relatives of the innocent deceased depending on what facts reveal.

    a case like this would make a stan A. wish he’d never been born despite his wealth. a question I have is jackley’s effort for show, for a fall guy, and how much is riding on a conviction. the other two standing charged are not such big deals, she seems to have admitted knowingly extorting MCEC, he back dating a contract. that one seems an easier defense.

    I am rooting for stacy to show us facts that exhonerate his great reputation, if that is where the facts lie. sad times when the state is more concerned with enabling cronyism apparently, rather than educating its youth.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-03-22 11:05

    Leslie, I would agree that turning state’s witness may be the only way out for Phelps, Hubers, and Guericke. It will be interesting to see which one of them caves first and thus gets the best deal. If Phelps turns, would there be any deal left for Hubers and Guericke to get?

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