Insight, analysis & opinion from Joe Paduda


What part of ‘must disclose’ do you not understand?

That’s the question North Dakota prosecutor Cynthia Feland should be asked by Judge Bruce Romanick if and when she appears in front of him to discuss Sandy Blunt’s request for a new trial.
The tortured history of Feland’s prosecution of former North Dakota state fund CEO Sandy Blunt is entering a new phase, as Feland will shortly have to respond to a State inquiry into her conduct during the trial, conduct which may well have included a failure to provide the defense with exculpatory evidence.
This isn’t a routine or common issue, despite what Feland says. In fact, it is quite rare for a prosecutor to be the subject of this type of inquiry, and once it gets to this stage, it is highly likely Feland will face disciplinary action by the State Supreme Court.
That’s one repercussion for Feland.
Another may be equally harsh. As anyone who’s watched any legal show on TV knows, the prosector must give all its evidence to the defense. Otherwise the defense has no idea what it is being charged with. This is absolutely basic to the US legal system, a core principal that is fundamental to our system of justice.
Blunt’s attorney has filed a request for a new trial or dismissal of Blunt’s conviction on charges brought against him by Feland. As I’ve discussed here repeatedly, the fact that these charges led to a court case in and of itself is incredible; Blunt’s felony conviction for authorizing gift cards, trinkets, and food for employee meetings and refusing to require a terminated worker to repay moving expense is beyond comprehension.
Nonetheless, that’s what happened. So here’s what’s new.
According to the article in the Grand Forks Herald, “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…
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[emphasis added] 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. (according to North Dakota state policy, “In the event of a voluntary resignation, you will be responsible to repay the relocation reimbursement according to the following schedule: Before 1 Year 100%, Between 1 and 2 Years 50%, After 2 Years 0%.”; Spencer’s termination was not voluntary, thus Wahl’s memo proved there was no crime.)
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. [emphasis added]
Not even in North Dakota.
By the way, I asked Feland repeatedly if she had provided this information to Hoffman or Blunt; she never answered the question.
Now, she’ll have to.
I can’t wait.

Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates




A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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