Ward County State’s Attorney Rozanna “Roza” Larson is running for re-election this year. As you can see on her Facebook page, Larson began as a prosecutor for Ward County in 1997. Then in 2009 she was appointed by the County Commission to the position she now holds. While Larson is seeking her third full term, this is also her first contested race. In the minds of some Ward County residents, a challenger could not have come at a better time.
Apparently Ward County simply isn’t seeing the results it should— to put it mildly. According to statistics cited in a May 4th Facebook post by Larson’s opponent – Minot defense attorney Andrew J. Schultz – the conviction rate for Larson and her team, over a two-year period to January 1, 2016, was a paltry 55%. A May 2nd post cites a jury trial success rate since January 1, 2017 of just 58%. To put this in perspective, Schultz says the national average in 2016 was 93%. Isn’t it ironic that Larson’s campaign slogan is “Justice, Safety, Accountability”?
With so many failures to obtain convictions for things like assaults, sex offenses, drug cases, terrorizing, and theft, it’s easy to see why some folks in Ward County feel that taxpayer dollars are consistently being wasted.
Aside from all of this, character has also been an issue for Larson. Former Ward County Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg penned a letter back in June to the Minot Daily News in which he suggested that a “good old girls” club had developed in the State’s Attorney’s office and that it was “time for a change”. This might be a fair point when we consider that Deputy State’s Attorney Kelly Dillon was arrested in 2016 for a DUI after crashing her vehicle in South Minot. Police reports indicate that it appeared Dillon attempted to leave the scene before officers arrived.
According to the Minot Daily News:
“The responding officer found Dillon in her vehicle, with the vehicle in drive and the air bag deployed. He states Dillon appeared to be ‘out of it’ and was staring off into space while speaking. Furthermore, the officer wrote that Dillon had bloodshot and watery eyes and was slurring her words.”
Though uninjured, paramedics recommended Dillon be transported to the emergency room at Trinity Health, where an officer clearly smelled alcohol on her breath. After the emergency room doctor agreed that a breathalyzer should be administered, Dillon tried to leave without being discharged. The officer wrote, “I physically had to step in front of Dillon and put my arms out to stop her from leaving.” Ultimately, she tested at a blood-alcohol level of .179— more than twice the legal limit of .08.
When the media tried reaching out to Dillon, she said, “I have nothing to say,” and hung up. At the time, State’s Attorney Roza Larson did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment either.
Then, a bizarre scenario erupted late last year when Ward County Deputy Sheriff Tim Poston accused Larson of sexual harassment. According to KFYR-TV:
“The investigative report quoted Poston as stating that while court was in session at the end of August, Larson motioned him over to where she was seated at the counsel table. As he knelt beside her, she leaned over to talk to him, placing her hand on his leg for about 15 seconds – a situation he described to commissioners as ‘groping.’ The same week, Larson reportedly made a joke regarding ‘fuzzy handcuffs’ in his presence after he finished explaining the significance of various colors of handcuffs to an assistant state’s attorney. ‘Fuzzy handcuffs’ carries a sexual connotation.”
Poston was later fired— a move that some say made the county look bad. Regardless, did he have a fair point when he acknowledged the double standard that comes with investigations regarding sexual harassment? After all, how would such a move have been viewed had the roles been reversed and the accusations of harassment made from a woman towards a man?
Poston continued to put up a fight and threatened to sue the county for their “botched” investigation of the case. An investigation that resulted in the county’s legal counsel suggesting that no disciplinary action be taken against Larson. In a meeting earlier this year, the situation nearly reached a boiling point when Poston’s wife stood up and had a heated exchange with County Commissioners.
Are the allegations of sexual harassment true? I don’t know. But when we consider all of these things, it appears there’s plenty of room for improvement in the Ward County State’s Attorney office. And it appears a majority of voters in Ward County might just agree with such a conclusion. In the June 12th primary election, Andrew Schultz edged Roza Larson with 51.58% of the vote.
It’s clear that Ward County can do better in the courtroom and the public eye. Ward County sees well below average justice, decreasing safety, and little accountability. In November, voters will have a choice between a fresh face or an embattled incumbent.
- 1. http://www.minotdailynews.com/opinion/letters/2018/06/time-for-a-change/
- 2. https://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/prosecutor-charged-with-dui-in-ward-county/article_542437dc-4806-5ff5-8a9d-78f96c679b3a.html
- 3. http://www.minotdailynews.com/news/local-news/2016/05/deputy-state-s-attorney-sentenced/
- 4. http://www.minotdailynews.com/news/local-news/2017/10/deputy-alleges-harassment/
- 5. http://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/Wife-of-fired-Ward-County-deputy-speaks-out-at-personnel-meeting-469623433.html
- 6. http://results.sos.nd.gov/resultsSW.aspx?text=Race&type=CTYSPEC&map=CTY&cty=51&name=Ward