“We’ve always maintained his innocence, and we proved it,” Hanna said. “God is great. That’s all I have to say” [James Nord, “South Dakota Jury Clears Ex-Nonprofit CEO in Contracts Case,” AP, 2018.10.12].
Hanna’s deity of choice may be great, but godly man Scott Westerhuis, who stole over a million dollars in GEAR UP grant money that Education Secretaries Rick Melmer and Meoldy Schopp had entrusted to the tiny, rural Mid-Central Educational Cooperative for a decade without rigorous oversight, was thieving scum:
“This case is about an innocent man who finds himself in this courtroom because one day three years ago, he got played by a criminal and a con man,” Phelps’ lawyer Dana Hanna told the jury earlier this week. “Stacy Phelps is here today because he had a secret enemy, Westerhuis” [Dana Ferguson and Danielle Ferguson, “Gear Up Trials Are Over but Scandal’s Legacy to Linger in South Dakota,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2018.10.12].
Attorney General Marty Jackley isn’t great, either. He can stumble to victory in big court cases to take more tax dollars out of our pockets, but he can’t convince a jury to bust anyone for participating in the theft of our tax dollars. In failing to secure the conviction of Stacy Phelps for any wrongdoing in the GEAR UP scandal, our Attorney General also blames the dead guy:
The challenge of this case as always been the lack of Scott Westerhuis. The fact is that the state is unable to present some of the co-conspirators in the cases. That makes it challenging [A.G. Marty Jackley, comments to reporters, in video from that Sioux Falls paper, 2018.10.12].
Jackley says that the justice he can’t secure in the courtroom may be achieved to some degree by supporting transparency and good journalism:
The courtroom isn’t the place to necessarily solve some of these financial type corruption cases. And we talk about transparency—the media has a role. You heard it, some of the trial testimony that when Bob Mercer was poking and prodding, people were noticing. And I think that if we look at these cases, I think the lesson learned is our state needs to look at its transparency, what can we do as a state to be more transparent about that the financial dealings are [Jackley, 2018.10.12].
On transparency, Jackley sounds like his former colleague and imminent successor, Randy Seiler, who recognizes that we need more open government but who also vigorously prosecuted public corruption and promises to do so as our A.G. “from top to bottom.”