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Bjorkman Wants EB-5 Repealed, Says Bollen Should Have Served Time

Democratic candidate for U.S. House Tim Bjorkman takes a harder line against the EB-5 program than either of his Republican challengers or our current members of Congress. The former judge from Canistota tells Bob Mercer Congress should kill EB-5 because (Mercer’s words) “it has opened the door to additional corruption in South Dakota.” (Note the word additional.) Bjorkman goes further and criticizes Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Marty Jackley for failing to put EB-5 czar Joop Bollen in prison:

“I just think that people need to know that anyone who mishandles the public’s funds will face a serious consequence,” Bjorkman said.

“Where the state doesn’t vigorously charge and then obtains a sentence with no incarceration in a case with these facts, it tends to erode the people’s trust in the system and our whole state suffers” [Bob Mercer, “Democratic Candidate for U.S. House Disputes No-Jail Sentence in EB-5 Case,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.08.25].

Recall that Bollen pled guilty to one of five felony charges, admitting to mishandling $300,000 of state EB-5 program funds (out of $1,244,000 listed in all five charges) and drawing a suspended imposition of sentence with two years probation, a $2,000 fine, and $104 in court costs.

A.G. Jackley shifts blame for the light sentence to the Legislature (for changing Class 6 felonies like Bollen’s to presumption of probation) and Judge Tony Portra (for signaling that he already had too many inmates in the Brown County Jail). But Bjorkman’s argument about preserving the public trust seems to qualify the sort of aggravating factor that a judge could use to exercise the discretion that Bjorkman says judges have to put Class 6 felons in prison but for which A.G. Jackley failed to argue.

8 Comments

  1. mike from iowa 2017-08-28

    Out of curiosity, has anyone polled residents to see if they believe the government of South Dakota is corrupt? (hint-it is imho)

    Bollen imitated a lawyer and got away scott free. Sometimes I wonder where your current AG got his lawyerly learning.

    Has anyone looked into how the State Banking Comm. decided a made up shell company on some off shore island qualified for a one time loan to NBP with a ridiculous rate of interest?

  2. Curt 2017-08-28

    Mfi, I think we can infer from Nov ’16 vote on IM 22 that majority of SD voters recognized corruption and were ready to do something to stop it. Hard to know where they are now that Gov and legislature repealed 22.

  3. Joseph Voigt 2017-08-28

    I think at the very least you don’t plead this out unless there is jail time. That sends a bad message, I don’t care if he law was on his side (it was) I don’t care if the evidence wasn’t as cut and dry as it should have been. You take this to court, you try to win, and if you win you ask the judge for jail time.

    If you lose, if you win and the judge doesn’t grant jail time, you can then blame it on the system.

  4. bearcreekbat 2017-08-29

    Wouldn’t imposing jail time be a decision for the Judge, rather than a prosecutor? There are many reasons to fault a prosecutor, but blaming the prosecutor for a lack of jail time for a defendant who pleads guilty seems a bit off base.

    Perhaps the complaint is that the prosecutor did not bring appropriate charges, or improperly agreed to reduce charges in exchange for the guilty -plea?

  5. mike from iowa 2017-08-29

    If the accused has the “goods” on the AG and his bosses, asking the accuser what he will agree to might be the way to go.

    Makes one wonder who the hell is in charge? The inmate apparently.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-30

    Curt, voters were certainly cranky about corruption, but that anger still propelled IM22 to only a 52-48 win, and it did not translate into any sort of candidate house-cleaning. More anger ensued when the Legislature repealed IM22, but I am waiting to see if that anger translates into a wave of support for any of the related circulating ballot measures and, more importantly, for a wave of new candidates who campaign well and oust the IM22-repealing incumbents.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-30

    Bear, your point makes sense—ultimately, sentence is the judge’s call, but the prosecutor could have advocated for jail time. As Joseph reasons, Jackley could have taken a harder line and then escaped blame for any soft sentence.

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