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.