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Kathleen Wrigley: Fuglie sets low bar for truth about Marsy's Law

BISMARCK—On Sunday, the Herald printed a portion of a blog entry by Jim Fuglie, former North Dakota tourism director ("Best of the Blogs," Page F1).

It was breathtaking in its falsehoods. Either Fuglie just didn't bother to do the research needed to write a truthful column or he knowingly misled readers. Either way, there is no excuse for the misinformation he advanced about Marsy's Law for North Dakota and my volunteer role in this effort.

I'm writing to set the record straight.

Fuglie's most outrageous statement in his complete blog post online is that I have been paid a million dollars to spearhead Marsy's Law. Let me be clear: I do not know Henry Nicholas. I have never met nor spoken to him. And he has not given me, personally, a million dollars, or $1, a fact the Mike Nowatzki of Forum News Service reported accurately ("Supporters submit Marsy's Law signatures in Bismarck, receive $1 million from donor," May 10).

Marsy's Law began after Nicholas' sister, Marsy, was stalked and brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend. The ex-boyfriend was later let out of prison on bail, without notification of the victim's family. Nicholas and his mother came face-to-face with the accused murderer in a grocery store the week after Marsy's death. Can you imagine that horror?

Nicholas, a successful technology businessman, set up a private foundation, which he alone funds, to help get victims' fundamental protections in state constitutions so others can avoid a fate similar to what his family suffered. Any attempts by Marsy's Law opponents to inject Nicholas' personal life into this debate is done only to distract voters from the real issues victims in this state face.

Our North Dakota team wrote Marsy's Law for North Dakota with input from statewide attorneys and law enforcement personnel. It will not and cannot diminish the rights of the accused criminal defendants.

I have called several opponents, and in our conversations, they've admitted they haven't even read our proposed law. Defense attorneys have even gone so far as to say they are offended by this and that they already do enough for victims. Seriously?

I ask these opponents to look into the eyes of the Perleberg family, whose son and brother was murdered at a wedding reception, or tell Mrs. Melby, whose daughter was raped and sexually assaulted in Minot, that the hurdles they've had in the system are no big deal. Or, try to convince the four-year-old child pornography victim's parents that their child isn't part of the system.

We are better than this. Marsy's Law for North Dakota upholds the values and standards we hold dear. Fuglie's post diminishes those values and diverts the reader's attention from the real issues and what Marsy's Law does.

It gives crime victims:

▇ The right to be notified of all proceedings.

▇ The right to be heard in any proceeding involving release, plea, sentencing, adjudication, disposition or parole, as well as any proceeding during which a right of the victims is implicated.

▇ The right to be free from intimidation and harassment.

▇ The right to restitution.

And, by putting these rights into the state constitution, it will give legal standing to victims and defendants equally.

Don't let opponents like Fuglie politicize Marsy's Law for North Dakota. This campaign is nonpartisan. Our volunteer sponsoring committee is made up of Independents, Democrats and Republicans, all North Dakotans.

Our state is one of only 18 that don't have this level of protection for crime victims.

It's an honor to volunteer my time to advance this cause because I believe it's an important step forward to improve the way crime victims in North Dakota are treated in our criminal justice system. I will be neither deterred nor bullied into silence.

Wrigley is unpaid chairwoman for Marsy's Law for North Dakota.

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