Dogged by doubts raised by stories about double standards in enforcing underage drinking and speeding laws, as well as earlier tensions with the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude was shown the door by voters in Tuesday's primary.
ECM Publishers's Hometown Source reports in Jude will not retain seat in Mille Lacs County:
There will be a new county attorney in Mille Lacs County come January. Jan Jude, who has held the the county attorney position since 2002, has lost in a three-way primary run-off to Assistant County Attorney Mark Herzing and private law attorney Joe Walsh. Herzing and Walsh will now square off in the November election for the right to the new Mille Lacs county attorney. Herzing was the top vote-getter with 1,102 votes (39%). Walsh tallied 998 votes (35%). Jude received 721 votes, or 25 percent of the vote. . . .
The primary must come as a vindication for Herzing, who was placed on an unpaid leave of absence by Jude's office after he joined the race, the Princeton Union Eagle reported in Assistant County Attorney Herzing criticizes supervisor’s 2012 dismissal of speeding ticket.
According to the article:
The three-way Mille Lacs County attorney race heated up last week when Assistant County Attorney Mark Herzing criticized Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude for her dismissal of a speeding ticket in December 2012.
A state trooper issued the ticket on Nov. 17, 2012, to an 18-year-old male who Jude confirmed was a friend of one of Jude’s children. The ticket was for going 69 mph in a 55 mph zone while passing a vehicle on Highway 23 in Milaca Township.
Herzing spoke to the Union-Eagle about it July 15 within hours of the Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners passing a motion to place him on an unpaid leave of absence until he is no longer a candidate for Mille Lacs County attorney.
The commissioners’ action was a concurrence with the county’s Personnel Board of Appeals’ opinion that it would be a conflict of interest for Herzing to remain active in the job while a candidate for his boss’s job.
Herzing called Jude’s dismissal of the speeding ticket “the tipping point” for him to run for Mille Lacs County attorney. Herzing made it clear that he was faulting the ticket dismissal because the subject was a friend of a member of Jude’s family and that he felt the dismissal didn’t meet guidelines.
One of the exceptions for keeping a speeding ticket off a person’s record is if the driver has a clean record and is not exceeding 68 mph in a 55 mph zone, he said. The guideline for making an exception in that case would be for the violator to pay the original fine at the clocked speed but to keep the infraction off the record, according to Herzing. . . .
The 69 mph that the man was clocked at was only 4 mph over what a motorist is legally allowed to drive when passing a car in a 55 mph zone, she said. The young man had a clean record and had some tough things going on in his life at the time of the ticket, added Jude, who declined to elaborate publicly.
Herzing is alleging conflict of interest in the ticket-dismissal when Jude has “great prosecuting discretion for charges, dismissals and in negotiation,” she said.
It is not out of the ordinary for reducing the severity of charges in cases or dismissing charges, she added. At the same time, the commissioners have a right to make sure its county attorney’s office runs efficiently and that someone employed by the office is not harming or creating the potential for harm of the public good, Jude added.
She also called Herzing’s bringing up the traffic ticket dismissal negative campaigning.
“You start dragging my child (into the county attorney’s race), that’s a negative, and I don’t think he should be,” Jude said.
Going back to the ticket dismissal, Jude said that a prosecutor’s job involves being “fair and compassionate to people.”
She called Herzing’s making an issue of the ticket dismissal an attempt to make her look bad, and that his doing so “seems unjust.”
Documents supplied to Bluestem Prairie suggest that Jude was spinning that incident in the best possible light (we had been working on this story when ECM Publishing broke the news, but were waiting for a data practice request to be fulfilled before publishing. Our investigation was never published).
First, her own department's guidelines allow for such bargaining only when the speeding offense takes place in a 55 mph zone, not in the 65 mph speed limit allowed under Minnesota law when a driver is passing on a two-lane highway.
Here's the guideline:
Second, the young driver in question wasn't just "friend of a member of Jude’s family," but was in a relationship with Megan Kolb, Jude's daughter, at the time, according to a Facebook page printed at the time the ticket was dismissed. (Printing date is in the extreme right hand corner).
Here's the dismissal paper:
Given the conflict of interest, Jude might have considered turning the case over to another staff member.
However, Bluestem isn't clear what the county attorney's office conflict of interest policy is. In a phone interview earlier this summer, Jude told us that the department has such a policy but that we would have to make a data practice request to obtain that document.
Our July 14, 2014, emailed data practices request was never fulfilled, despite the county's stated policy of responding within 10 days to such requests.
She did, however, send an email statement about our inquiry in an earlier email:
Thank you for your inquiry. As I previously stated, prosecutors have broad discretion in their decision-making on charges just as law enforcement officers have broad discretion when making a traffic stop. For example, officers can issue a written warning, a citation or simply give a verbal warning for speeding or other violations. Prosecutors have similar discretion. In a situation where the cited individual is ticketed for going only 4 mph over the speed limit and has no traffic violation record, along with other mitigating factors, a prosecutor would certainly have the authority to dismiss the citation. In the specific situation that you reference, the ticketing officer was contacted and the circumstances were discussed, and the officer agreed that the petty misdemeanor ticket should be dismissed. Whenever possible and appropriate, if prosecutors are dismissing tickets or otherwise, we consult with law enforcement.
This is consistent with her later statements to the press. However, as as it appears in her statement to the ECM Publishing chain reporter, Jude seemed unable to see the case as a question of process and fairness, and rather tooks it as an attack on her daughter, rather than following procedure.
An attempt to reach the young driver during our earlier inquiry was not successful; the phone number listed for his family in a local telephone book was not in service.
Jude investigated after daughter's graduation bonfire
Readers may recall that Jude took a lot of heat in 2013 after a boy attending her daughter's graduation bonfire ended up being hospitalized the Fairview Northland Medical Center in Princeton. Former City Pages staff writer Andy Mannix looked at the case in Big drama in small-town Minnesota after a party gone wrong.
The day after her son was rushed to the hospital, Kim Hamilton learned the occupations of Megan Kolb's parents. Her stepfather, Russ Jude, is a tribal investigator for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Her mother, Jan Jude, is the Mille Lacs County attorney, with jurisdiction over more than 25,000 people, including a large portion of the Ojibwe reservation. Both parents were home that night, but say they had no idea that kids were drinking on their property.
This isn't Jan's first brush with controversy. Most recently, Jude has been at odds with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribe over its request for more federal law enforcement. Jude has argued on behalf of the county that it's not necessary, but also that the 61,000-acre reservation was disestablished in the 1800s, and the tribal land is now only 4,000 acres.
"The Mille Lacs band doesn't feel like there has been a real open-hearted attitude toward them from the county attorney's office, and that's really unfortunate," says Gail Kulick, a former state representative who now lobbies for the band. . . .
Some in town think it's unfair that the Judes are being targeted by law enforcement.
"If this happened at anyone else's house, this wouldn't be happening," one mother told investigators. "There wouldn't be an investigation. It wouldn't be on the news."
But others say the county attorney should be held to a higher standard. Jan's office prosecuted another mother, Cheryl Miller, just a few years ago for hosting a graduation party involving underage drinking. Though Miller was ultimately found not guilty of the gross misdemeanor charge of procuring alcohol for minors, Jan took the opportunity to publicly point to the case as "a good reminder during this graduation season that we all have to be mindful of underage drinking and take whatever precautions we can."
Jude was later cleared of wrongdoing, the City Pages reported in No charges for Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude. Mille Lacs County has no social host ordinance.
Photo: Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude, who came in third in a three-way primary and thus will not appear on November's ballot.