Judge Says NDSU Players Weren’t Smart Enough To Realize They Broke The Law
“I don’t want to treat them adversely, to make special examples of them,” Judge Douglas Herman said during the sentencing of ten North Dakota State University football players who were convicted of perpetrating massive petition fraud. Herman noted that the players were “not smart enough, grown up enough or sophisticated enough.”
That is an awful thing to say about 10 students admitted to what is supposedly one of North Dakota’s premier universities. One almost get the idea that these students are on campus more for their football skills than academic prowess. The idea that college students weren’t smart enough to realize that forging tens of thousands of signatures on petitions is wrong is nothing short of pathetic.
But both Judge Herman and District Attorney Birch Burdick wanted to make it clear that they weren’t being overly harsh on the players because of their affiliation with the popular NDSU football program. “We took no consideration of what they do outside the courthouse here other than the activity that we were charging them with,” Burdick said. “It’s irrelevant to me whether they are football players, baseball players or clerical workers in some office. It’s the behavior that we’re looking at.”
The problem is, these players were pretty clearly held to a double standard. In 2008 two citizens were caught having faked 610 signatures for a measure that would have cut the state’s income taxes (it was Measure 2 on the 2008 ballot). Their punishment, despite a level of fraud that was several orders of magnitude smaller than these football players? Pretty much the same as the football players. The boyfriend/girlfriend who got caught in 2008 got a year’s worth of probation, 50 hours of community service and $350 in fines for hundreds of fake signatures.
The NDSU football players got the exact same punishment for tens of thousands of faked signatures. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I believe that bigger crimes deserve bigger punishment.
But the judge (who is elected in the Fargo area) and the prosecutor (who is also elected in the Fargo area) both wanted to make it clear that they weren’t being too tough on these poor simpletons (hey, Judge Herman said it, not me) from the popular local football program.
Meanwhile, NDSU President Dean Bresciani is still trying to hide behind federal law as an excuse from disclosing any discipline the university or football program might be handing out:
President Dean Bresciani said during an evening news conference that the athletes were scrutinized by the courts, the university’s code of student conduct and team rules. Bresciani said he couldn’t discuss the school or team discipline because of privacy laws, but said those accused “made a serious mistake.”
Bresciani says he can’t discuss team discipline, yet over the last few weeks the University of North Dakota publicly announced team discipline for a half-dozen players that included suspensions, university-mandated community service and counseling for alcohol-related offenses. The idea that Bresciani somehow can’t talk about what discipline the team might hand out to these players is ridiculous.
I’m making an open records request today for details about what discipline these players will face, and when it is inevitably denied, I’m going to be filing an open records complaint. But that complaint will take about 6 months to conclude, which means that NDSU can be satisfied that any disclosure they may have to make won’t happen until well after football season.
And that’s your university system, North Dakotans. Thoroughly corrupt. Absent event a modicum of accountability. We need new leadership.
Update: NDSU has announced that one player will be suspended for one game because he had previous offenses on his record.
That doesn’t jibe with Bresciani’s claims that team punishments can’t be made public. The team is also handing down other, unspecified discipline.Tags: dean bresciani, higher education, NDSU, ndsu bison, North Dakota News, north dakota state university