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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Clark Schmidtke's Side of the Story: "I'm Innocent!"

Permit me to update what I just published about the court records of our District 8 Senate candidates. District 8 Senate Candidate Clark C. Schmidtke Sr. and I just had a very serious conversation on the phone about his court records and what really happened in Minnesota. Trying hard to reserve judgment, I present what I've read and what I've heard (and delay once again talking about actual policies affecting District 8).

According to information from the Minnesota judicial system, in Case No. 46-K0-95-000504, The State of Minnesota vs. Clark Calvin Schmidtke, Judge Robert D. Walker presiding, our candidate was charged with 45 charges of theft and mistreatment of vulnerable adults.

Schmidtke says he was innocent. The county social worker, he says, brought bogus charges against him because the county owed his health care facility money and wanted to put him out of business. He did go out of business in 1995. He lived in Arizona at the time and thus had to fly back and forth for court appearances. He went to court 15 times. Eventually, Schmidtke says he ran out of money for the lawyer. He asked his lawyer how much it would cost to continue fighting the charges: $15,000. Schmidtke didn't have that money, so he switched to a public defender. That public defender recommended Schmidtke simply plead, take a few days' jail time and pay restitution. Schmidtke agreed and pled to three charges of theft. The remaining 42 charges we dropped... and Schmidtke spent eight months in jail and was assessed $14,225.96 in restitution.

The court record shows $580 credited toward restitution in 1997. Schmidtke's first payment is listed in 1999. Schmidtke then made 19 payments from 1999 to 2003 adding up to $6530. The Minnesota judicial website indicates that Schmidtke's current balance due is $7,695.96.

Schmidtke says that last figure is an error. In 2004, another complication arose. Schimdtke's probation officer claimed she didn't know Schmidtke had moved to South Dakota, hauled him back to Minnesota, and tossed him in jail. Schmidtke says his son then looked through his dad's phone records and found information that showed the probation officer would have known from those records that Schmidtke was in South Dakota.

If I understand the story, it was at this point that Martin County Attorney Terry W. Viesselman stepped in and said enough's enough. Schmidtke says Viesselman recommended the court reduce the case from felony to misdemeanor and drop the remaining restitution at this time. Schimdtke says the court did just that. He has not made any further restitution payments at this time, as it was his impression that the case was closed and he was absolved of further obligations. (Schmidtke says he'll get a lawyer to check on the status of that balance shown on the judicial website soon.)

Schmidtke said he wasn't eager to see any of this come out. He didn't want to do ill to any other candidates. He also has to make a living, and bad press like this could impact his bottom line at the assisted living facility he runs in Trent. Running for office was just asking for opposition research to dig up this hard-to-explain story.

Nonetheless, he says he is deeply upset with bad government in Pierre. He kept waiting last spring for some Democrat to challenge Senator Russell Olson (R-8/Madison), and when no one stepped forward, he felt someone had to speak up on the issues and challenge the status quo... even if it was a suboptimal candidate such as himself.
On a personal note: I told Clark that he's damaged goods. He knows that. I also told him that he's still right on policy issues and on the need for change in Pierre. And forget my partisan hat: I have strong bias toward any individual who argues that he has been unjustly persecuted by the powers that be and simply ran out of money to fight the good fight and prove his innocence. Clark has also done time, paid some restitution, apparently to the satisfaction of the prosecuting attorney, and now just wants to move on with his life, serve the people who hire him, and pay the bills.

But candidate Schmidtke also wants to serve the people of South Dakota in Pierre. Some voters—maybe most voters—will dismiss Schmidtke and his story out of hand. And I can't blame you if you do.

The court says a man I know and respect committed crimes. The man says he did not. I still have some thinking to do.


  1. Cory,

    I thank you for your good presentation of Clark's side of the story. The people should know these things especially the accusation of a breach of trust. At the same time, to Clark's defense, I think once a person has paid his debt to society (and I hope he has) we should do our best to approach the infractions with a heart of forgiveness if we see evidence of a person who has changed their life.

    Regarding your listing of all of Russ's infractions, I think somehow we need to also put some things in context. Nearly all of them occurred prior to him becoming 25 or 26. We have a President who has admitted to using cocaine, both of our governor candidates have admitted to smoking marijuana, and few hold none of these "infractions" as issues which should affect their ability to serve.

    Yes, I preach to my kids things can have long-lasting results on their future. Yes, I hope they will listen to me. But I also admit some lessons need to be learned on their own and I just pray nothing irreversible occurs. Youthful exuberance includes a mistaken belief one is bullet-proof.

    So after the "youthful indiscretion" period, over the last 12 years, we have five speeding tickets, a failure to stop, and an open container which based on its location seems to indicate it was on a fishing or hunting trip.

    To hold this out as something relevant, I just ask people to consider if they want this standard held against the President, Lt. Governor, Senate Minority Leader, their son or best friend. Before long, the only people eligbible to serve us will be my Pastor and wife as they are the closest people I know to being perfect.

    I know you have a bone to pick with Kristi Noem. But when will this politics of personal destruction stop?

    The accusation of a breach of fiduciary trust and election laws are significant matters. And you have to admit the Democrats have tried to assert a new standard of "fitness" for office which makes Clark's admitted infractions seem like treason.

    I hope you will link this post to Pat's site so Clark's explanation is out there. If you do and notify me as such, I'll follow-up just with my comments regarding people having an open mind about Clark's past.

    I hope nobody construes my compassion toward Clark as an endorsement. I've been a donor to Russ and think him to be a great legislator. While I agree with him on many issues, I gave him money because I find his demeanor and work ethic a credit to the Legislature.

    Again, thank you for giving Clark's perspective. And, next time you talk to him, advise him to be a bit more forthright more quickly. 90% of the people are forgiving and understanding, especially when they see remorse and reform of one's life.

  2. Kristi has paid all of her fines too.

    Tim Higgins

  3. Kristi did not look the judge in the eye, plead guilty and then not full-fill her financial obligation/agreement as did Schmidtke

  4. Hold on, Tim. let me make sure we understand the story correctly. After he was convicted, Schmidtke started making payments. Schmidtke says that in/around 2004, the prosecuting attorney asked the judge to drop the conviction from felony to misdemeanor and forgive the remaining restitution. At least by Schmidtke's version of the story, he paid money to fulfill his obligation until the court basically annulled that obligation. In short, he kept paying until the court said, "quit paying." That's not defense; I'm just saying that's what he's saying.

    And I suspect that if he did owe Minnesota nearly $8K, Minnesota would have sent some troopers over by now to collect.

  5. He stole over $12,000 and paid back a little less than half of it. I wonder if you would be so forgiving if the victim of his crime was your mother or father

  6. I haven't issued any forgiveness, Tim. And you are looking at it from a different and valid perspective. Yes, if someone steals $12K and doesn't give it back, that's bad. No doubt. But why would the prosecuting attorney and judge go along with that and release the thief from that obligation?

  7. Cory,

    You have performed a genuine service to honesty and decency in this follow-up. I have further thoughts which were too lengthy to be accepted in the comment format, so I posted them on my blog site:



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