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Trooper Steals $69,668 from Drug Bust Evidence; Sentence Comparable to Bollen’s?

More corruption in South Dakota:

A former Highway Patrol trooper pleaded guilty Monday to grand theft of nearly $70,000 seized during his time in law enforcement.

Brian Biehl, 48, of Platte, pleaded guilty to grand theft by law enforcement of seized property, according to the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office, which Biehl said he confiscated during drug searches during his law enforcement career, according to court documents.

Biehl was charged and arrested for the charge on Nov. 4, after he admitted to taking $69,668 in money confiscated between May 21, 2012, and Oct. 19, 2016, according to court documents. Biehl said he intended on eventually paying everything back, and he took the funds because he was “short on money” [“Former State Trooper Admits to Taking $70K in Evidence Money,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2017.02.06].

An eager reader reminds us to consider the parallel’s between Biehl’s thievery and Joop Bollen’s. South Dakota’s EB-5 czar pled guilty this month to taking $300,000 out of a state till (documents show he took $1.244 million). Biehl took his money from evidence lockers that apparently no one double-checked for four years. Bollen took his money from a uniquely risky and costly account that the Governor’s Office of Economic Development created to keep state funds off the books.

Like Biehl, Bollen intended to put the money back; unlike Biehl, Bollen did, just a few days after each withdrawal. Bollen “borrowed” 18 times more money than Biehl from the state. Biehl took his money from bad guys; Bollen’s big brief booty came from rich foreigners legally buying green cards.

Bollen pled to a Class 6 felony and got a $2,000 fine and two years of probation. Biehl faces a Class 4 felony and thus could get ten years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Bollen and Biehl both violated the state’s trust. Bollen took more money and enjoyed more personal gain from that money than Biehl. Given Bollen’s sentence, we should expect Biehl to get no jail time, no fine, and less probation.

42 Comments

  1. Jenny 2017-02-09

    Is Bollen even required to pay back the money? Has Jackley been questioned by news media why the verdict was so lenient?

  2. mike from iowa 2017-02-09

    I’ve got friends in high places……
    where corruption reigns and we seldom faces
    the chance of going to jail.

  3. Mike Boswell 2017-02-09

    Bollen inappropriately moved the money, but put it back. This case is not the same. As the money has yet to be returned.

  4. mike from iowa 2017-02-09

    Seriously, I think I get it. The former trooper violated the public trust by stealing evidence.

    Bollen, otoh, maintained wingnut cronyism protocol by getting what he could, knowing the public had no trust in him/them to do the right thing.

    Grudz- you lop eared son of a whisker biscuit. You jinxed my state and now wingnuts control both houses of congress and are pushing through an anti-public sector union bill like Wisconsin’s to destroy unions and the economy, too. Hope you are happy you little s$%g$@!#n!

  5. David Newquist 2017-02-09

    Is Platte the capitol of embezzlement for the State of Corruption?

  6. straught outta ridge 2017-02-09

    The brothers in the Jamison Annex will welcome him with open arms….

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-09

    Ah, but Boswell, Attorney General Jackley said the fact that the thief puts the money back has no bearing on the nature of the crime. Are you arguing with Attorney General Jackley now?

    Judgmental? Barry, I reject any nihilist relativism that denies the opportunity to judge drug dealers as bad dudes. Show me evidence showing the claimed evidence came from folks who actually didn’t commit bad crimes, and I’ll correct on a case-by-case basis. But if the money was confiscated from innocent people, I would think at least some of them would have had their loot returned, they would have noticed some was missing, and we’d have seen Biehl busted much sooner.

  8. Chuck-Z 2017-02-09

    I’ve said for a long time that civil forfeiture laws simply make cops the criminals. Where the hell is the oversight on this money stolen off the highways? How do we possibly know it’s only $70,000, and are any other troopers lining their pockets? No wonder people are losing respect for law enforcement. Trickle-down corruption.

  9. Daniel Buresh 2017-02-09

    Asset seizure started off as a good idea that is wrought with abuse now. Not only is it being used to take non-criminal assets with the excuse that they were acquired through criminal activity, but it requires the burden of proof to fall onto the owner to prove that the assets were indeed legally acquired or unrelated to the crime. It’s become a fund raiser for departments. Still doesn’t change what this officer did, but I’ve seen some pretty shady stories about this process altogether.

  10. barry freed 2017-02-09

    You did not read your assignment. Or even worse, you did.

  11. Rorschach 2017-02-09

    Daniel Buresh for once is right.

  12. Bill Kennedy 2017-02-09

    The trooper could not have nailed any of our fine elected/appointed officials asses to the wall with testimony about the money he took. The Joopster, on the other hand, could have made things bad for a number of people in Pierre, and one guy who is now in DC.

  13. mike from iowa 2017-02-09

    Didn’t I read here recently some wingnuts doubt there is corruption in the gubmint?

  14. Porter Lansing 2017-02-09

    The psychology of a criminal would say there’s a very high chance this cop also stole high grade pot and replaced it with ditch weed that grows all over SoDak and then sold the good stuff to his friends. Probably cut the cocaine with baby laxatives and sold the stuff he filched, too. Think it doesn’t happen? The percentage of cops that smoke pot and use cocaine in the state is way higher than you’d suspect. Don’t cross the thin blue line, officers.

  15. Rod Hall 2017-02-09

    Will this ex-trooper continue to be the President of the Platte School Board? What is wrong with the regular people of Platte?

  16. Kurt Evans 2017-02-09

    Brian Biehl is a super-nice guy with a great family, and he was a good cop for many years. This is a tragedy on multiple levels.

    Civil asset forfeiture is a stench in the nostrils of justice, and its corrupting effect on law enforcement officials is probably the most underemphasized argument against it.

    Asset Forfeiture Abuse (American Civil Liberties Union):
    https://www.aclu.org/issues/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police-practices/asset-forfeiture-abuse

    Trump Does Not Know What Civil Forfeiture Is, but He Likes It (Reason Magazine):
    http://reason.com/blog/2017/02/09/trump-does-not-know-what-civil-forfeitur

  17. mike from iowa 2017-02-09

    And Donnie Drumpf just recently offered to help a Texas sheriff ruin the career of a wingnut Texas pol who believes forfeiting assets before a conviction is wrong.

  18. Jenny 2017-02-09

    That’s what the people of Platte said about Scott Westerhuis also, Kurt.
    Really, South Dakota quit being so forgiving. Your state stinks bad of corruption.

  19. Bob Newland 2017-02-09

    Cory says, “I reject any nihilist relativism that denies the opportunity to judge drug dealers as bad dudes.”

    For about eight years I sold cocaine and weed to at least eight SoDak legislators, five sitting state’s attorneys, and four sitting circuit court judges, along with a few dozen regular citizens. Am I a bad dude? Maybe. But the people to whom I was selling were busy passing laws to put folks like themselves in jail, prosecuting folks like themselves and sentencing folks like themselves. At least one of them is a legislator today.

    Brian Biehl was a member of a police agency that regularly breaks the law to “enforce the law.” He did steal, but only in a slightly more blatant fashion than is regularly done on the highways of SoDak.

    The drug dealers I dealt with were considerably more honest and honorable than many of the legislators, prosecutors, judges and cops I have run across.

  20. Kurt Evans 2017-02-09

    Jenny writes:

    That’s what the people of Platte said about Scott Westerhuis also, Kurt.

    Similar: Temptation presented by authoritarian government.
    Different: Brian confessed rather than murdering his family.

  21. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-10

    Bob, yes, to some extent, you are a bad dude (and I’ve met you, so I know, and so do you!).

    But the legislators who bought that stuff from you and then promoted themselves as defenders of public safety and opponents of drug use (and I’m sure they did!) are arguably badder. When do we get names?

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-10

    Kurt, I can see an analogy of opportunity: Biehl saw stacks of easy cash sitting around and helped himself. Bollen was forced to maintain a slush fund that GOED wanted to keep in private hands and off the public books. Both had increased opportunity to commit a crime due to questionable government decisions.

    However, both retain full moral and legal culpability. Similarly, even if the government sends hookers to my house to seduce me, if I submit to their ministrations instead of showing the ladies the door, I am as guilty of adultery as if I went to the bar to hook up with a lady of my choice.

    Furthermore, invoking authoritarianism here is not appropriate. Authoritarianism could buy Biehl some lenience if the government had ordered Biehl to keep some of the evidence money in his house to hide it from oversight or risk losing his job. If the authoritarianism/”they made me do it” critique had any weight here, it would excuse Bollen more than Biehl, who had to get up and take the money from a locker that absolutely did not belong to him.

    Biehl is no tragic figure. He’s just a thief, someone who abused his public office for private gain.

  23. Bob Newland 2017-02-10

    The problem with names is much the same now as it was then. They would all deny. All I have is my word.

    I have observed, though, that at least some of those folks have graduated into lives that have provided a certain amount of “justice.”

    Vengeance is mine, saith the lord.

  24. barry freed 2017-02-10

    Cory,
    Before asking anyone’s name as you hand down your “liberal” fascist judgements based on False Facts, please show us in the US Constitution how the War on Drugs is legal. You take the stance that these elected officials, like everyone else, have no Right to self-medicate without Big Pharma/FDA/DEA approval, and should face your wrath of prohibitional punishments. Show us in the Constitution, so we can feel good about jailing minorities and poor people… and their epileptic “doper” babies too.

  25. Bob Newland 2017-02-10

    YEAH! What Barry said.

    I committed no crime in filling a consumer desire, at least in the mind of a sane person. The purchasers committed no crime in using what I supplied.

    What many of them did, in pandering to idiot voters by “being tough” on “drugs,” in prosecuting others for doing what they did, and in sentencing others to prison for doing what they did, those were crimes of the worst sort.

    I want to be on the Drug War Crimes tribunal.

  26. Kurt Evans 2017-02-10

    Cory writes:

    Kurt, I can see an analogy of opportunity: Biehl saw stacks of easy cash sitting around and helped himself. Bollen was forced to maintain a slush fund that GOED wanted to keep in private hands and off the public books. Both had increased opportunity to commit a crime due to questionable government decisions.

    One could almost refer to such increased opportunity as temptation, but the analogy I’ve addressed above is Jenny’s analogy between Brian Biehl and Scott Westerhuis.

    Similarly, even if the government sends hookers to my house to seduce me, if I submit to their ministrations instead of showing the ladies the door, I am as guilty of adultery as if I went to the bar to hook up with a lady of my choice… Biehl is no tragic figure. He’s just a thief …

    Have you ever stolen anything, Cory?

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-12

    Jiminy crickets, Barry, you pile a lot of labels into a simple question about the constitutionality of drug laws that I’m not addressing. My point was that Biehl took his money from lawbreakers—a.k.a., bad guys. Bollen took his money from law-abiding foreigners lawfully seeking permanent residence. If you’re going to critique that statement by arguing that our drug laws are bad, I could respond that our immigration laws (especially with respect to EB-5, allowing rich people to buy their green cards and jump the queue) are bad, thus neutralizing the critique and still maintaining that Bollen committed a crime of greater magnitude than Biehl and that Biehl thus deserves less punishment than Bollen.

    I still want that list of Newland’s customers next time drug legislation comes before committee… or when Jackley campaigns against the pot ballot measures.

    To Kurt’s question, I plead the Fifth and ask for relevance.

  28. mike from iowa 2017-02-12

    Different: Brian confessed rather than murdering his family.

    Wasn’t Westerhuis murder/suicide a confession?
    Could it have been prevented if the corrupt government of South Dakota had provided oversight? Same with Bollen?

  29. mike from iowa 2017-02-12

    Kurt-did you personally know Westerhuis?

  30. Bob Newland 2017-02-12

    Before you get a list, Cory, you have to admit that I’m not a bad dude, and that drug dealers in general are not bad dudes just for breaking stupid laws.

  31. grudznick 2017-02-12

    The demon weed is bad, Bob. It is very bad, but I have your list.

  32. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-12

    Bob, can I still say you’re a bad dude, in the good sense of the word?

    Breaking stupid laws does not by itself make people bad.

    Do I get the list yet?

  33. Kurt Evans 2017-02-13

    Cory had written:

    Biehl is no tragic figure. He’s just a thief …

    I’d asked:

    Have you ever stolen anything, Cory?

    Cory responds:

    To Kurt’s question, I plead the Fifth and ask for relevance.

    It seems to me there’s a problem with labeling someone in the present tense based on sins he’s confessed and, as far as we know, forsaken. There’s arguably a bigger problem with the word just, which suggests Brian is nothing more than the label applied. I’m generally not a fan of reducing people to the worst things they’ve ever done.

    Hypothetically, if you’d ever stolen anything, do you think you’d be comfortable identifying yourself as “just a thief”? (That’s a rhetorical question intended to clarify the relevance of my previous one.)

    “Mike from iowa” asks:

    Wasn’t Westerhuis murder/suicide a confession?

    I’d say it was going to great lengths to avoid a confession.

    Could it have been prevented if the corrupt government of South Dakota had provided oversight? Same with Bollen?

    Maybe, but as a libertarian I’d argue that both situations could have been prevented if the programs hadn’t existed.

    Kurt-did you personally know Westerhuis?

    We had mutual friends, but no.

  34. Bob Newland 2017-02-13

    Thanks for the concessions, Cory.

    The list? I was jes’ kiddin’.

  35. Bob Newland 2017-02-13

    Kurt said, “I’d argue that both situations could have been prevented if the programs hadn’t existed.”

    In Westerhuis’s case, that’s undeniably true, although Westerhuis possibly would have job-searched until he found a job where he could write his own paychecks.

    In Biehl’s case, are you referring to the Highway Patrol “program.” I’m all for abolishing it, but that’s not a realistic aspiration. On the other hand, the program that seizes people’s money simply because of a suspicion that the money may have once met a drug, now there’s a program we can live without.

  36. Kurt Evans 2017-02-13

    Bob Newland writes to me:

    In Biehl’s case, are you referring to the Highway Patrol “program.” I’m all for abolishing it, but that’s not a realistic aspiration. On the other hand, the program that seizes people’s money simply because of a suspicion that the money may have once met a drug, now there’s a program we can live without.

    For the record, I’m referring to the latter—civil asset forfeiture—and we agree.

  37. Kurt Evans 2017-02-14

    Hey Cory, could you remove the second comment above (at 21:28), then remove this one, then put back the “Preview” button? :-)

  38. Joe Nelson 2017-02-14

    Kurt,

    I agree we need the Preview button back, it is the only way to makes sure my html code is correct!

  39. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-16

    Dang it! I pulled that plug-in to try saving some load time. I’ll put it back, and we’ll see if disaster ensues.

  40. Kurt Evans 2017-02-16

    Cory writes:

    I pulled that [preview] plug-in to try saving some load time.

    That’s what I’d suspected.

    I’ll put it back, and we’ll see if disaster ensues.

    Thanks, Cory.

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