Blunt gets deferred sentence, no jailFormer workers’ compensation director Charles “Sandy” Blunt could clear his criminal conviction in two years if he complies with probation conditions a judge handed down Wednesday for misusing the state agency’s funds.
By: By Janell Cole , N.D. Capitol Bureau, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Former workers’ compensation director Charles “Sandy” Blunt could clear his criminal conviction in two years if he complies with probation conditions a judge handed down Wednesday for misusing the state agency’s funds.
South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick deferred imposition of sentence for two years, despite a prosecutor’s description of Blunt as an uncooperative, unrepentant offender who “is of the opinion the rules don’t apply to him.”
A jury convicted Blunt in December of misapplication of entrusted property, a Class B felony that carried a possible 10-year prison sentence. Jurors acquitted him of a second count, a Class C felony.
Blunt was executive director and CEO of Workforce Safety and Insurance from mid-2004 to December 2007, when he resigned after Gov. John Hoeven pressured the WSI Board to fire him. The charges stemmed from the findings in a state audit.
Romanick put Blunt on probation for the two years, fined him $2,000, assessed $750 in court fees, ordered 1,000 hours of community service within two years and rejected the prosecution’s request for nearly $34,000 in restitution.
Blunt’s attorney, Mike Hoffman, was satisfied with the sentence.
“It’s what we asked for,” he said after court adjourned.
Burleigh County Assistant State’s Attorney Cynthia Feland told Romanick Blunt sees himself as a victim, an outsider who has been persecuted because he moved here from out of state. She said a personality profile done of Blunt and other WSI upper management employees some years ago reported that Blunt has an attitude that he does not have to follow rules.
Feland asked for a three-year sentence and said she would leave up to the judge how much of that might be suspended. She also asked for 200 hours of community service.
The judge said he has never before ordered a defendant to perform 1,000 hours community service and said the case’s high profile make it more complicated to decide on a sentence.
“I’ve struggled with this, Mr. Blunt,” he said.
Romanick said he received more than 90 letters on Blunt’s behalf, telling of his good deeds and asking that he not be incarcerated. The writers included one of the jurors who said he should not be incarcerated. The juror did not denounce the guilty verdict.
Feland sought restitution for nearly $34,000 to WSI’s fund, the money prosecutors said had been misspent.
“The victim in this case is the state of North Dakota,” she said, including the employers whose premium dollars paid to the WSI fund were misused and the injured workers whose medical and rehabilitative services WSI pays for.
She said Blunt abused a public position of responsibility and trust.
If Romanick had handed down a suspended sentence, Blunt wouldn’t have the opportunity to clear his record that a deferred sentence offers. Under state law, defendants who complete probation satisfactorily as part of a deferred sentence can apply to the court for the conviction to be removed.
Romanick noted Blunt had not taken any money or benefitted personally from the misspent funds, has no previous criminal convictions and that neither WSI nor the state has attempted to recover funds from WSI employees or former employees who benefitted from gift certificates, parties, meals, unearned sick leave and other perks not allowed by state law. He also said he doesn’t know which of the many expenditures the jurors used to decide on conviction and noted that the prosecution had to only prove that it was over $10,000.
Blunt left the courthouse without commenting. He declined a chance to make a lengthy statement to the judge before sentencing because he’s appealing the conviction, but briefly said, “I have a dedicated lifetime of public service” and never has or will defraud the public.
He told Romanick he appreciated the opportunity to speak but because the case is ongoing, “I think it’s appropriate I not comment at this time.”
Cole works for Forum
Communications Co., which
owns The Jamestown Sun