A key witness in the state’s case against the Dickinson State University Foundation is invoking his Fifth Amendment right by refusing to testify. Parrell Grossman, attorney with the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office told Southwest District Judge William Herauf.
Grossman, representing the state Thursday during a request for summary judgement hearing, said the “very critical” witness “has a lot of key information” and could incriminate himself through testimony. However, he did not name him.
The announcement caught Judge Herauf off guard, and he expressed surprise at the news.
“He knows more about anything that went on here than anyone else,” Grossman added. “He’s certainly entitled to do that to the extent that what he might say could result in criminal charges.”
Grossman added there are other witnesses beyond the man invoking the Fifth Amendment who have also given the state “some resistance” in request for testimony.
The announcement came after Herauf denied a motion for summary judgement requested by First International Bank and Trust of Watford City, an intervener in the case, regarding the validity and priority of debts owed to it by the DSU Foundation.
Herauf’s denial pushed all further arguments in the case to a scheduled two-day hearing Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, though Jon Brakke — the attorney for First International Bank and Trust — expressed concern. Grossman agreed that it wouldn’t be enough time for Herauf to sufficiently hear the entire case and that it could require more than a week.
The judge agreed and said the hearings will stretch out as long as they need to.
Herauf said he has found the case against the DSU Foundation to be entirely unique in North Dakota case law, as there are no true precedents.
“I’ve spent some sleepless nights on this and I’ve spent many hours reading the statutes,” Herauf said.
Herauf said while he wants the case to have an amicable conclusion in which both the defendants, plaintiffs and intervening parties can all reach reasonable outcomes, he’s doubtful that’ll happen.
“One side or the other is not going to be happy with how this comes out. That’s a concern I have,” he said.
He also expressed concern for the DSU Foundation donors, many of whose money cannot be accounted for by either the state-appointed receiver or Brady Martz accountants, saying they trusted their money to the foundation without any real ability to protect themselves.
“Then the DSU Foundation did a whole bunch of stuff that didn’t work out … and now we have this problem.”