Democratic Attorney General candidate Randy Seiler warmed up for his speech to Boys’ State yesterday by sitting for an interview with Dakota Free Press. The former U.S. Attorney and I talked about his career as a prosecutor (over 500 federal felony cases as lead prosecutor in his first 14 years in the U.S. Attorney’s office, 75 of which went to jury trial) and his vision for the office of South Dakota Attorney General.
Delegates to the Democratic Convention June 15–16 charged with choosing between Seiler and Tatewin Means as the Democratic nominee will find Seiler’s responses to my questions useful in making their decision. If Seiler wins the nomination, so will all South Dakota voters as they choose their next Attorney General in November.
Meth, courts, and treatment [~12:45]: On his first felony court date as Hughes County’s interim state’s attorney this winter, handled “39 felony cases, 38 of which had a meth connection.”
So [meth] is driving the criminal justice system…. The Attorney General needs to set the culture with respect to how those cases are going to be handled. Certainly enforcement is important, but… it is a three-legged stool…. Prevention certainly needs to be a part of that. We need to do outreach with schools. We need to do outreach with other agencies involved. I want to go out into those communities that are most impacted by the drug problem and sit down with those individuals and get their perspective about what’s the way to approach this.
But also South Dakota needs to step up in terms of both mental health and treatment. When people in crisis turn to drugs, the solution shouldn’t be a felony and being sent off to the South Dakota State Penitentiary. There needs to be drug courts and other treatment options and alternatives and stronger mental health counseling, and there needs to be some opportunity for treatment and recovery on a long-term basis.
Drug Laws [~18:00]: Seiler notes that South Dakota may be the only state that criminalizes ingestion of drugs as a felony (see SDCL 22-42-5.1) and suggests reducing that penalty to misdemeanor status to reduce prison crowding and costs. (Libertarian District 17 House candidate Greg Baldwin will say reducing the penalty for drug ingestion doesn’t go far enough, but hey! Greg! Seiler is offering you more than Republicans will!)
Corruption [~21:30]: Seiler said he involved in the U.S. Attorney’s investigation of South Dakota’s EB-5 scandal, but he didn’t share any new information about what the feds learned about our corruption of EB-5. He does say “there were major warning signs within the context of state government with respect to the administration of the EB-5 program that percolated for a long period of time” before the corruption in the program got real public attention.
Seiler says he initiated the multi-department “Guardians Project” to tackle corruption in South Dakota and in Indian Country. The Guardians Project has secured numerous convictions of tribal members who mishandled federal funds. Seiler wants a comprehensive review of our conflict-of-interest laws (which he says Initiated Measure 22 would have strengthened).
Jackley, Online Sales Tax, and Other Lawsuits [~28:00]: On my question about lawsuits Attorney General Marty Jackley has initiated or joined on South Dakota’s behalf, Seiler reminds us that he and Jackley are friends and that he worked for Jackley in the U.S. Attorney’s office. Seiler says Jackley got the argument right on online sales tax before the U.S. Supreme Court, but he disagrees with South Dakota’s lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act and certain environmental issues. Seiler doesn’t name lawsuits he might throttle if elected, but he says he’ll review pending litigation and draw a clear line between lawsuits necessary to defend South Dakota law and lawsuits joined for political reasons.
Guns and School Safety [~32:15]: Seiler spoke with passion about the need for “a realistic discussion” about guns and school safety that won’t be stifled by fears about keeping one’s A+ NRA rating. “I don’t believe that 18-year-olds need to be allowed to buy assault rifles, or bump stocks, or banana clips,” says Seiler, “but we also need to look at the underlying causes.” Seiler says he wants to lead a conversation involving everybody—NRA, school boards, social services—in a conversation about the policies we need to keep our kids safe. “We’re killing more kids in our schools than we are in the military in 2018, and something needs to be done about that.”
Indian Country [~34:40]: Seiler notes that he has spent most of his career working in Indian Country, from private practice at the start in Mobridge to current independent contracts under which he provides legal services to the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Sioux Tribes.
Crime Victims Rights and Amendment Y [~36:20]: Seiler gives the backers of Amendment Y some credit for trying to fix the administrative problems in “Marsy’s Law” rather than repealing it wholesale.