April 24: First Statewide Grand Jury
In 1984, Law enforcement searches of illegal gambling operations led to the first statewide grand jury in North Dakota history. The Legislature had passed a law allowing for statewide grand juries in 1977. Six years later, in December 1983, law enforcement officers searched bookmaking operations in Fargo, Grand Forks and Mayville, the culmination of a yearlong investigation.
Among the places searched were the home of a former newspaper sportswriter and his restaurant; a Mayville State College professor’s home and office; and a bar in Fargo. Investigators confiscated cash, documents and bookmaking equipment. Afterward, Attorney General Bob Wefald sought to impanel a statewide grand jury due to the involvement of multiple counties.
A district court judge in Fargo granted the request. Twenty-one people from Cass, Grand Forks, and Traill counties were called as prospective grand jurors, with 11 people chosen. The grand jury began its work in Fargo in early April 1984. Its proceedings were closed to the public. Among the evidence the grand jury heard was testimony from two men who had been arrested after the searches and had pleaded guilty to illegal gambling.
On this date in 1984, the grand jury indicted 12 people. The grand jury also identified bookmaking operations around Beulah, Center, and Minot, and reported that none of the six operations appeared to be linked to, or controlled by, an out-of-state group. The grand jury also chose not to indict the bettors involved in the gambling.
The grand jury also brought to light the growing popularity of Calcuttas. Calcuttas are betting pools in which gamblers bid on players or teams in hopes they win, typically in golf tournaments. The proceeds of this auction are put into a pool for distribution to the winners. One such event had a pool of nearly $100,000! Wefald cautioned the public that Calcuttas were illegal. Many people were not happy with the attorney general for enforcing the gambling laws!
Ultimately, at least 15 people were charged, including the 12 indictments by the grand jury. One of the defendants was also charged in federal court. The criminal cases ended with suspended jail sentences, supervised probation, fines and restitution.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1983, December 19. Page 19: Alleged gambling operations raided
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1983, December 21. Page 18: More details released on gaming raids
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1983, December 23. Page 13: Jury probe of gaming possible
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, March 1. Page 1: Grand jury to probe gambling
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, April 10. Page 17: Grand jury begins gaming probe
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, April 11. Pages 1, 14: Two plead guilty in gaming crackdown
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, April 20. Page 7: Grand jury investigation incomplete
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, April 25. Page 11: Wefald: Probe to put crimp in bookmaking
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, April 26. Page 15: Gambling charges faces Center man
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, April 27. Page 10: Seven given the news in N.D. gambling probe
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, April 30. Page 10: Fargo man pleads innocent in gambling case
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, May 1. Page 5: Trio released on bond in gaming case
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, May 1. Page 22: Probation given in gaming case
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, May 2. Page 2: Guilty plea entered to gambling charge
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, May 3. Page 19: Release of evidence considered
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, May 8. Page 6B: Bettors can sleep easier: They won’t be prosecuted
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, May 10. Page 8B: Man gets suspended sentence, $2,500 fine in gambling case
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, May 18. Page 1B: No Calcuttas, says attorney general
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, August 23. Page 6B: Deferred sentences given to three men in gambling case
- The Bismarck Tribune. 1984, October 14. Page 10B: Grand Forks man sentenced on tax charge
- Interview with Bob Wefald: 2023, March 25
- Interview with Calvin Rolfson: 2023, March 25
- North Dakota Century Code 29-10.1: Grand Jury – https://www.ndlegis.gov/cencode/t29c10-1.pdf
- State v. Rasmussen, 365 N.W.2d 481 (N.D. 1985): ndcourts.gov/supreme-court/opinion/365NW2d481