Jerome G. "Jerry" Arnold served as Minnesota's U.S. attorney under two presidents, prosecuting not just drug dealers and bank robbers but savings and loan executives in one of the nation's first banking indictments resulting in convictions.
Arnold, 78, died June 6 at his Duluth lake home after battling a long-term lung condition. He was still hearing cases as a workers' compensation judge until a week before his death.
"He's one of the few people I met who wasn't afraid of anything," said Jon Hopeman, a former assistant U.S. attorney. "If it was the right thing to do, he would simply do it without fear or favor of any person."
Arnold was born to Edward and Anastasia Arnold, the first son in a family of 10 children that the couple raised on a farm in Paynesville, Minn. They were not well off, said Arnold's son, Jason, of Vadnais Heights.
"He worked his way off the farm and worked his way through law school," Jason Arnold said.
Arnold received a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and his law degree from the University of North Dakota. He started his legal career as an assistant city attorney in Duluth in 1968, and worked as an assistant prosecutor in the St. Louis County Attorney's office from 1969 to 1971 before moving into private practice.
Arnold, a Republican, ran for Congress in 1974 in hopes of representing Minnesota's 8th district, but lost to DFLer James Oberstar. For years he helped other Republican candidates, taking a leadership role in U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz's campaigns, his son said.
President Ronald Reagan appointed Arnold U. S. attorney for Minnesota in 1986, and he continued serving under President George H.W. Bush until 1991. He was known for making the daily rounds with attorneys in the office.
"He was a salt-of-the-earth guy," Hopeman said. "He had a huge laugh and a great sense of humor."
Arnold, acting on a tip, assigned a team of prosecutors including Hopeman to dig into the failing Midwest Federal Savings and Loan, which had lost $1 billion in taxpayer funds. "As the investigation continued, it was clear it was a fraud loss," Hopeman said.
Amid intense public scrutiny, Arnold took the case to the grand jury and obtained indictments against four executives, including bank chairman Hal Greenwood Jr.
"He had a tremendous amount of criticism leveled against him for that," Hopeman said. "But he did it because he had complete integrity."
After a trial of nearly six months, the jury convicted the Midwest Federal executives on dozens of counts including defrauding investors, fooling regulators and personally profiting, before the savings and loan collapsed in 1989.
But Arnold was soon replaced as U.S. attorney by Tom Heffelfinger, who was appointed by Bush and promoted for the job by moderate Minnesota Republicans more in line with the president's political stance. "He wasn't happy about it. He understood that no one serves in office forever. That's how the political world works," Hopeman said.
Arnold practiced law until 1993, when he was appointed a state workers' compensation judge.
In his free time, Arnold enjoyed hunting, fishing and landscaping. Jason Arnold said his dad was a devoted family man who enjoyed coaching his children.
"He would do anything for his children," Jason said. "We would not be where we are today if not for the sacrifices my dad made."
Besides Jason, Arnold is survived by his wife of 47 years, Judy, of Duluth; sons, Thomas and Mark, both of Blaine, and John, of North Oaks; daughter, Maria Karpiel of Ann Arbor, Mich.; sisters, Barbara Nathe of St. Stephen, Minn., Marie Kozulla of Apple Valley, Sharon Hess of Paynesville, Evelyn Larson of Slayton, Minn., Roseann Keul of Cold Spring, Minn., and Margaret Schmitz of St. Louis Park; brothers, Art of Paynesville and Edward of Lindstrom; and seven grandchildren.
Services have been held.