Former director of N.D. workers comp demands a new trialBISMARCK— Former North Dakota workers compensation director Sandy Blunt should have his felony conviction for misspending public funds dismissed because prosecutors withheld evidence before his trial, Blunt’s lawyer argued Thursday.
By: By Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK— Former North Dakota workers compensation director Sandy Blunt should have his felony conviction for misspending public funds dismissed because prosecutors withheld evidence before his trial, Blunt’s lawyer argued Thursday.
Prosecutors did not turn over copies of a Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent’s interviews with four Workforce Safety and Insurance executives and a state auditor, Blunt attorney Mike Hoffman said in a court filing. Hoffman said he had requested copies of all law enforcement interviews in the case.
Hoffman is asking South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick to grant Blunt a new trial or dismiss the charge against him. Blunt was convicted of a single felony in December 2008 for allegedly misspending more than $26,000 in public funds. North Dakota’s Supreme Court upheld Blunt’s conviction last month.
Cynthia Feland, an assistant Burleigh County state’s attorney who was the lead prosecutor in Blunt’s case, already has asked Romanick to determine whether she violated any disclosure rules.
Feland did not respond Thursday to telephone and e-mails seeking comment. She has said previously that the prosecution’s case file on Blunt was open to Hoffman’s inspection at any time.
Romanick should conclude that Feland did violate the rules, Hoffman’s filing says.
“Mr. Blunt did not receive a fair trial,” Hoffman wrote. “Mr. Blunt ... contends the only just order under the circumstances is an order of dismissal.”
Blunt was accused of spending more than $11,000 on flowers, trinkets, balloons, decorations and beverages for Workforce Safety and Insurance employee meetings, and on gift certificates and cards for restaurants, stores and movie theaters that were used as worker incentives.
Prosecutors also said Blunt allowed a senior WSI executive, Dave Spencer, to keep almost $8,000 in moving expenses that he should have repaid, and to exhaust his sick leave when he was not ill, a benefit worth about $7,000.
Spencer’s employment agreement said he would have to repay some of his moving expenses if he resigned within two years; he left WSI in September 2006 after working there for about 19 months.
Hoffman said a Bureau of Criminal Investigation interview with the auditor, Jason Wahl, that was not disclosed to him quoted the auditor as saying Spencer’s repayment of the money was a “nonissue” because Blunt forced Spencer out of his job. That would have undercut prosecutors’ arguments that the money was an illegal benefit to Spencer, Hoffman said.
Feland’s argument that the prosecution file was open to Hoffman does not absolve prosecutors of their obligation to turn over relevant material to the defense, Hoffman contended.
“An ‘open file’ policy does not abrogate or dilute the requirement that prosecutors disclose evidence” that the defense requests, Hoffman said.