September 2007 Letters to the Editor
Comments from readers on the last issue of Minnesota Monthly
Nominated for Notoriety
To your list of “The 10 Most Unwanted” (July) may I disrespectfully add a few of my picks? The ownership and top management of the Star Tribune, Carl Pohlad, Zygi Wilf, Tim Pawlenty, Steve Sviggum, Dean Johnson, Mike Opat and the other three men on the Hennepin County Board, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Ghermezian brothers who run the Mall of America, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northwest Airlines.
WILLARD B. SHAPIRA
Your lack of accuracy is amazing, and your tongue-in-cheek attacks border on cruel in “The 10 Most Unwanted.”
Dee Henderson, the former Mrs. Minnesota, is serving her prison time in Pekin, Illinois, with dignity. Your story contains no accurate facts about her case and trots out the old misinformation used by the media—but not by the prosecution—during her trial: Dee never participated in a swimsuit competition; rather, she competed in an aerobic-wear fashion show; Dee never attended dive classes but rather attempted to snuba (a form of snorkeling recommended by many physicians for those with back pain) and was unsuccessful. She had to be helped from the water after just 10 minutes.
Dee and her family have made full restitution of the $250,000 ($30,000 fine included) she is accused of taking. Dee has also finished her PhD studies while in Pekin (no dumb blonde here). Her dissertation “Alternative Sentencing Recommendations for First-time Non-violent Offenders” is a touching summary of dozens of women torn from their families for crimes of judgment, not violence.
My wife is remarkable, with the heart of a lion. While awaiting her release, she has helped other inmates secure GEDs. She also runs a reading-development program that helps inmates record books on tape for their children. Dee has been lauded as a model prisoner by the administration at Pekin and was selected to meet with Federal Bureau of Prisons officials, representing the interests of over 350 women.
Yes, Dee is still ill, with almost-daily migraines, monthly trips to doctors, and dozens of doses of medications. But dozens of legal and medical experts remain convinced Dee’s case is a tragic miscarriage of justice and that the jury got it wrong. The jury should never have been asked to try and determine an individual’s “residual work capacity” (a complex assessment of disability that allows a person to collect Social Security Disability Insurance benefits even while appearing healthy)….
Dee’s crime was that she inaccurately presented her condition on a Social Security form. On appeal, the government stated that they have little argument that Dee has serious medical issues, but they believe she misrepresented her condition on her paperwork. In fact, they now maintain that her medical condition was never a fact in the case.
We continue to believe that Dee did little more than complete the wrong form. She was given an employment versus self-employment questionnaire. She was sentenced as if she received more than $700,000 in benefits even though she only was paid about $175,000. This overstatement of loss added months to her prison time—some form of “let’s get even with the former beauty queen” vendetta by the government.
Our fight is over, and now we are forced to make the best of the situation for her family and children. Your vicious attack on a wonderful woman, who is attempting to quietly serve her time and who has made full restitution, shows the unwillingness of some people to allow individuals to pay their debt to society quietly. Your mean-spirited article almost three years after the trial demonstrates the power of the pen is mighty and that the notion of “getting it right” in print or in the courts is a forgotten standard today here in Minnesota.
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