By Reilly Biel firstname.lastname@example.org – Jul 20, 2018
If there’s one thing Randy Seiler knows, it’s the law.
Seiler, a former Deputy United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota from 2015-2017, is running on the Democratic ticket for South Dakota Attorney General against Republican Jason Ravnsborg of Yankton.
Seiler spoke to the Press & Dakotan Friday during a campaign swing through Yankton.
He is currently serving as interim state’s attorney for Hughes County.
“I wasn’t ready to be put out to pasture,” he said of his 2017 retirement. “Part of my analysis (to run for attorney general) was to look at where I wanted to practice law, what kind of law I wanted to practice and who I wanted my clients to be. I decided I wanted to do the same kind of law that I’ve been practicing for the last 22 years.”
Prior to being Deputy United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota, he ran his own private law practice for 14 years. He then did a tenure as Assistant United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota and represented the United States in the prosecution of federal felony criminal law violations, including murder, rape and domestic violence.
After being approached by Billie Sutton, the Democratic nominee for South Dakota governor, about running for attorney general, Seiler said he felt that his background and involvement with the law made him a good candidate for the position.
He has seen how transitioning from an attorney’s office at a federal level to an attorney general’s office at a state level can be beneficial through watching current South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley.
“There are a lot of similarities between the responsibilities of those offices,” Seiler said.
He noted that an important aspect of being South Dakota attorney general is to have experience with the state’s Native American tribes, which he obtained during his time as U.S. attorney.
“I’m currently working with both Lower Brule and Crow Creek on creating infrastructure and helping them with their prosecution functions,” he noted.
His main priority is fighting methamphetamine abuse that is prevalent in the state.
“Part of the law enforcement approach to the drug deal — whether it’s meth or opioids — is to utilize safe trails task forces that are a combination of federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement,” he said. “That, in terms of addressing meth use, is huge. The other aspect is that in the federal system, in almost every drug case, there is a discussion about the potential for cooperation — using the little fish to get the big fish.”
This would involve having drug abusers eligible for treatment programs supply the names of the dealers from whom they purchased the drugs.
“We want to make sure they’re committed (to treatment) and not just using it as a way to avoid prison,” Seiler explained.
He doesn’t think prison is the best way to treat people with addictions, he added.
“We need to provide more mental health services to individuals before they’re incarcerated by trying to address the issues and circumstances that lead them to commit crimes,” he said. “Just sending them off to prison oftentimes doesn’t work. There is a lot of humanity in second chances and, generally speaking as South Dakotans, we believe in second chances.”
However, those dealing drugs won’t be treated with that same attitude, he said.
“When you’re dealing drugs in South Dakota, or bringing drugs in from out of state, plan on spending a long time here because we will prosecute you and ask for the maximum mandatory sentencing,” he said.
Treating people with fairness is important to Seiler, which is one of the reasons he attended Pierre’s first Pride Festival earlier this month. He spoke at the LGBTQ event and provided a sponsorship.
“I believe in civil rights and constitutional rights for all individuals,” he said. “Constitutional rights are the lifeblood of who we are as Americans.”
Regarding recent cases like the EB-5, Seiler wants to see more transparency with the attorney general’s office.
“I think the attorney general office needs to establish standards and prosecution guidelines which would be made available to the public in terms of what we look at when we’re making decisions about whether a case should be prosecuted,” he explained. “I also think there needs to be a clear-cut principle before the attorney general makes decisions about getting (attorneys) involved in litigation at the federal level. Frankly, political consideration should not be a part of it.”
He stated that he believes his years of experience and knowledge of the inner-workings of the state law make him the ideal choice for attorney general.
“If you’re hiring a lawyer, who do you want to hire? Someone who doesn’t have any experience, that hasn’t been involved in making decisions in the courtroom about introducing evidence and such?” he asked. “I’ve done all of that. It’s not good enough to want to do good — you want to have the experience and knowledge to know how to do good.
“I think that’s our path to victory in terms of South Dakotans wanting the best qualified individual to serve as their lawyer and make decisions with respect to public corruption, to make decisions with what people should be charged with a crime, to make decisions about whether cases should be appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court and argued before the South Dakota Supreme Court. Who do you want making those decisions? Somebody that’s basically dedicated the last 38 years of their life to being involved in all of that.”