Letter to the Editor - A story of our justice system in Polk County

Kay Henre Hegge

Here’s a story of our Justice system in Polk County. I know a guy, innocent, but his charges made a story on the front page of the Times and so everyone in town blasted him as guilty. After pleading not guilty, his case has been on the docket for two years! That is two years out of the life of a guy struggling to make ends meet on Disability, HUD, and paying out child support. It’s a case of one mentally ill woman’s word against another mentally ill guy. Why this “case” hasn’t been thrown out, I do not know.

While in jail for a week, no one prescribed his mental health medications! You can’t even deliver them! He had to sell his car and borrow the rest to pay bail of $1200 which was reduced from $20,000 because of being on Disability “income.”  This man used a public defender who promised to help him and stay with him throughout the case, but was abusive, and didn’t do his homework. We had to make every point for him:   

1. Look up his criminal history score.

2. Why didn’t the attorney suggest a restraining order against this woman?  The lady left several text messages saying she was not going to stop (pressing charges) until he says, “I love you.” She called many times too saying things like, “Come to Grand Forks, I’m with Juan, if you just F___ me, I’ll drop all charges.” So my friend asked the Judge for a Restraining Order on her which he got. He hasn’t heard from her since. 

3. First a little history on this lady:  In talking to one of her ex-relatives, we found out (not the Public Defender) that she was alcoholic, on psychotic meds, difficult for everyone, she has a history of four charges of disorderly conduct, assault 5th degree inflict or attempt at bodily harm, obscene, noisy, offensive and abusive. Only one was convicted, the rest dismissed. So she and her mental health worker g0t together and dreamt up another charge against my friend, an incident where he stopped his car to offer her a ride, and he got out and offered again.  So this was abusive? You got me on this one.  Still, this story adds to the prosecutor’s threats to put this man behind bars with a felony on his record.  Yet, the prosecutor can’t see this: Why didn’t the woman call 911 if she was so scared she charged him with a felony, jeopardizing his housing benefits?

4. Why didn’t she just make arrangements to pay him the $75 she owed him? Why is this sick woman with a reputation for disorderly conduct assisted by Mental Health services to file charges, and not the tall man with the tattoos and big voice with ZERO criminal history assisted to get well?  He has been my friend and helper for 18 years and has never laid a hand on me!  This is a case of two people yelling at each other over $75!  Why are the police in town following and stopping this man for no or little reason? Above all, why is one recently homeless woman and her prosecutor trying their best to make her “friend,” (no sexual relationship) (helps her move from the Homeless Shelter, buys her cigarettes, etc.) HOMELESS?  Why is the prosecutor unable to see this and drop the case.  And the capstone:  the public defender retired, and this innocent man is forced to work with a new public defender and all the above is NOT IN THE FILE! 

So now what, we spend taxpayer money for another two years of continuances before a judge or jury trial. The stress of declaring “not guilty” and enduring this crap “system” is enough to make a guy commit suicide in this town full of suicides.  WHY?

Kay Henre Hegge