Campbell, Tollefson resign after plea bargain controversy

Campbell, Tollefson resign after plea bargain controversy by David Lias Two state lawyers have resigned after being suspended for their handling of a plea bargain in the death of a Vermillion baby, according to a news report last week.

The report states that Gov. Bill Janklow was notified Feb. 4 that Special Assistant Attorneys General Ron Campbell and Gay Tollefson had resigned, said Bob Mercer, the governor�s press secretary.

Janklow earlier Friday said he was upset when he heard that the two prosecutors had bullied the child�s mother in an attempt to get her to accept the plea bargain they had negotiated.

Daren Olson, a former University of South Dakota police officer, has pleaded innocent to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter for the October death of 5-month-old Jordyn Nicole Olson. Prosecutors have said he hit his daughter�s head against a table.

Maria Olson, a Vermillion police officer, wanted her estranged husband to get a sentence of up to 30 years.

But Campbell and Tollefson signed a deal to recommend only 20 years in prison for Daren Olson.

Attorney General Mark Barnett has said the two prosecutors signed the plea bargain over Maria Olson�s objections and without getting the required clearance from his office.

The judge in the case will have to decide whether to accept the plea bargain.

Maria Olson has said Campbell insisted during a telephone conversation that she go along with the recommendation for only a 20-year sentence.

Barnett earlier had suspended Campbell and Tollefson from practicing as assistant attorneys general. The two were employed by the Department of Social Services, which would have determined what discipline they would have faced.

The Plain Talk contacted Barnett�s office this week to confirm that the information in the news report is correct.

Bob Gray, a spokesman for the attorney general, said Feb. 9 that he and other officials in Barnett�s office couldn�t comment on the case.

�My boss says we�re gagged,� Gray said, referring to a gag order issued by a judge that prohibits parties involved in the case from commenting publicly about it. �That gag order has kind of shut us up, and therefore we can�t talk to you.�

Janklow said Feb. 4 he called Maria Olson because he felt bad after he heard what had happened. He said he told her he would try to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

The state lawyers apparently were trying to get Maria Olson to agree to the plea bargain so the deal would be politically acceptable, the governor said in the news report.

Attempts by the Plain Talk to contact officials from the Department of Social Services and from Janklow�s office to confirm this information were unsuccessful.

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