Blunt shouldn’t get prison time, attorney saysNorth Dakota’s former workers compensation director deserves probation and an eventual clean record rather than prison for his felony conviction on a charge of misspending more than $26,000 in public funds, his lawyer believes.
By: By Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — North Dakota’s former workers compensation director deserves probation and an eventual clean record rather than prison for his felony conviction on a charge of misspending more than $26,000 in public funds, his lawyer believes.
A jury last December found Sandy Blunt guilty of misspending public money while he was director of the Workforce Safety and Insurance agency, a job he held for almost four years. He was forced out in December 2007.
South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick has scheduled Blunt’s sentencing for 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The felony charge for which Blunt was convicted has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In a court filing, Blunt’s lawyer, Michael Hoffman, said Blunt should get a deferred sentence “for a short period of months” and not be required to pay restitution.
“All money at issue in this case was intended for the benefit of WSI,” Hoffman wrote.
A deferred sentence would allow Blunt to serve a specified time on probation. The conviction could be dropped from Blunt’s record if he did not violate any laws during that time.
Cynthia Feland, an assistant Burleigh County state’s attorney, declined to disclose the prosecution’s sentence recommendation. Feland has said she believed Blunt should, at minimum, repay the misspent money.
Blunt, 44, was convicted of using agency funds for a series of unauthorized expenses, including $4,331 for employee gift certificates, $7,053 for meeting costs, $7,617 in moving expenses for a WSI executive and $7,053 in sick leave payments for the same executive.
Blunt also was accused of illegally authorizing $15,279 in safety grant payments to the North Dakota Firefighter’s Association, but Romanick ruled jurors could not use the grant as evidence against Blunt.
After Blunt’s conviction, Hoffman argued in a court filing that Romanick should have ordered Blunt acquitted on the felony charge because he had disallowed some of its supporting evidence.
Romanick declined, saying in an order earlier this month that “there was ample evidence to go forward” with the remainder of the case.
“Blunt’s right to a fair trial was protected, rather than violated, by the court’s actions,” Romanick wrote. “At no time has Blunt complained that this court’s ruling limited his ability to instruct or argue to the jury.”