The Marsy’s Law campaign here in North Dakota was the pet project of California billionaire Henry Nicholas who has spent millions pushing ballot measures here in North Dakota and elsewhere. In fact, in our state, Nicholas was pretty much the only contributor to the measure campaign, paying for signature collectors and a slick media campaign that drowned out objections to the law from law enforcement and the legal community.
The North Dakota Victim’s Assistance Association, CAWS North Dakota, the North Dakota Women’s Network, the North Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the North Dakota State’s Attorneys’ Association, the North Dakota Trial Lawyers, the First Nations Womens Alliance, and the North Dakota Fraternal Order of Police all opposed the ballot measure.
But the Marsy’s Law people had televisions Dr. Fraser Crane on their side so…
Today Marsy’s Law is causing headaches – among them confusion over what information about crimes can now be disseminated to the public – and Nicholas has some legal headaches of his own.
News this morning is that he was busted on drug trafficking charges in Las Vegas, though according to reports it appears as though he wasn’t so much a trafficker (allegedly) as just a billionaire who bought a lot of drugs to make friends:
LAS VEGAS — Tech billionaire and advocate of crime victims Henry T. Nicholas III is facing drug counts after being arrested along with a woman Tuesday at a Las Vegas Strip casino-resort.
Nicholas was arrested on suspicion of trafficking heroin, cocaine, meth and ecstasy, Las Vegas police officer Larry Hadfield said Thursday. He added police responded to the casino-resort following a report from security, which had found contraband in a room.
“It sounds like his biggest crime is being an addict,” legal analyst Alex Kazarian told CBS. “He’s a billionaire. He’s not a person that’s trying to make money off of drugs. He’s a person that’s trying to make friends off of drugs. Unfortunateley, the way the laws are written, if you’re giving away drugs or if you’re selling drugs, you’re trafficking.”
Meanwhile, the national Marsy’s Law campaign which continues to push its agenda in other states claims their movement is more than just Nicholas. “The allegations in the media should not interfere with Marsy’s Law, the victims rights movement started by Dr. Nicholas, that so many victims, advocates, law enforcement leaders, staff and volunteers are working to advance across the country,” the organization said.
That’s a hard argument to buy when Nicholas has pretty much been the only one bankrolling the campaign.
It’s fair to say that Nicholas’ personal struggles do not necessarily impugn the efficacy of Marsy’s Law as public policy, but I am reminded of something Dale Sandstrom (then a justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court) told me about the Marsy’s Law campaign in 2016: “The North Dakota Constitution should not be a hobby farm for an eccentric California billionaire.”
That the initiated measure process gives someone like Nicholas the ability to embed his pet project in our state constitution is a shining example of how deeply flawed that process is.