WASHINGTON D.C. (KELO) — In his final hours in office, former President Donald Trump issued 53 pardons and 64 commutations.
On the list of names of those who were granted clemency are six South Dakotans: Paul Erickson, John Nystrom, Jessica Frease and Gregory, Deborah and Martin Jorgenson.
We have searched through court documents and D.O.J. archives in order to bring you the details of these cases, along with a fuller understanding of who these individuals are.
In July 2020, a federal court sentenced Paul Erickson to seven years in prison. Erickson had pleaded guilty in 2019 to charges of wire fraud and money laundering after admitting to fraudulent investment schemes involving a bogus housing project in the Baaken oil fields in North Dakota that prosecutors said bilked investors of more than a million dollars.
In 2009, John Nystrom was sentenced to two years’ probation, with a $5,000 fine and 100 hours community service, and ordered to pay $20,514.64 in restitution.
Nystrom had originally been charged with counts of theft and bribery while working as a contractor on a Crow Creek school reconstruction project in 2005.
According to court documents, John Nystrom gave money to Scott Raue to bribe him as an agent of the Crow Creek Tribal Schools on seven separate occasions between January and December, 2005.
In an official statement about the pardon, the White House Press Secretary states “Mr. Nystrom failed to alert the proper authorities when he learned that a subcontractor was receiving double payments for work performed.” The statement went on to note that Nystrom has since paid his restitution in full.
Jessi Jean (Jessica Frease)
Frease, now going by Jessi Jean, was convicted in 2012 for stealing checks and cashing them at the bank she worked at in Rapid City. We spoke with Jean today to ask her about her experience and her clemency.
Just 20 years old at the time of her sentencing, Jean served two years in prison, followed by a supervised release. It was during her time in prison that she first learned about the potential to be pardoned she told us, “I couldn’t really do anything while I was in there, so once I got out I researched about it, and come to find out, I had to wait five years after my release date to even apply for it.”
Pardon in hand, Jean is extremely grateful for her second chance, and is looking forward to being able to do things that her record had previously prohibited. She has finished EMT school, and is now planning to take her national test.
The Jorgensen Family
Gregory, Deborah and Martin Jorgensen were convicted and sentenced in 1996 of conspiracy and several counts charging the fraudulent sale of misbranded meat.
According to a statement from the White House, the Jorgensen’s marketed their beef under the Dakota Lean brand and sold the premium product as heart-healthy and antibiotic- and hormone-free. However, it was found that the Jorgensens had been mixing in inferior, commercial beef trim and had knowingly sold misbranded beef.
Gregory was sentenced to 24 months in prison, Martin received 15 months, and Deborah was given 12 months and one day. Gregory and Deborah received full pardons, while Martin’s was posthumous.
In a statement about the pardons, the White House wrote “The Jorgensens have shown remorse for their previous action, and in light of decades of exemplary public service, they are well deserving of these pardons.”
The pardons for Nystrom, Frease and the Jorgensens were all endorsed by Governor Kristi Noem, who sent letters to the president offering her full support toward their clemency.
In a news release following the pardons, Noem said, “I am tremendously thankful to President Trump for his support of these three pardons — The Trump administration has done an excellent job balancing justice with forgiveness, and tonight’s pardons will provide these individuals with a second chance to continue as productive members of our South Dakota community.”