According to emails sent by NDSU officials about the petition fraud scandal involving, among others, 10 current NDSU football players the companies involved in that fraud are in the cross hairs of investigators.
“The players were told to get a certain number of signatures. If they did not get their number they would not have a job,” wrote Coach Bohl in an email responses to questions about the scandal. “They were never informed about the potential fallout or criminal charges by the company. Many times the notary was not present and someone else signed off as the notary. The investigator told me they are going after the company but need to file charges against our players.”
These comments would seem to suggest that testimony from the players may be used in further charges against the company which was hired to collect signatures for the conservation petition. The medicinal marijuana petition, which was also derailed by fraudulent signatures from these players, did not outsource their signature collection. According to earlier reports, the head of that initiative Dave Schwartz was responsible for paying the players to gather signatures.
These comments also seem to suggest that the players may get some sort of a plea deal in exchange for testifying against the company/petition organizers in other charges. What Bohl is describing are serious crimes in addition to the original petition fraud. From what the coach descries, the players were given signature quotas, which is problematic because pay-per-signature is illegal in North Dakota. The coach is also seems to be talking about notary fraud.
This may be the big secret NDSU officials like Bohl have told the public will mitigate the seriousness of the misdeeds of the players themselves. Certainly, in these emails, Coach Bohl makes the players out to be the victims of the company. I’m not so sure that’s true. We’re talking about college students here who ought to have known that these fraudulent signatures, among other things, were wrong even if the company didn’t tell them it was wrong.
These players getting a deal to testify against those that hired them – if indeed that’s what is in the works – does not exonerate the players themselves nor should it mitigate the seriousness of the punishment they receive from the university.
Also in the emails are a number of responses to President Bresciani to North Dakota taxpayers and NDSU alumni/fans writing to him about the scandal. Bresciani consistently blames the media for making it appear as though the university is taking no action to discipline these players, but I think it was Bresciani himself and other NDSU officials who gave that impression.
“[T]he fact is, the decision that the coach and athletic director made — ‘let the legal process play out’ — not only meshed perfectly and conveniently with the football program’s best interests, but also employed a double standard so blatant that it made NDSU’s hometown newspaper wince,” wrote Tom Dennis in an editorial for the Grand Forks Herald. “No wonder North Dakotans got the sense that decisions had, in fact, been made. No wonder they thought those decisions would amount to closing the door to the locker room after the players had left for the season.”
Below are the emails which I obtained through an open records request.