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scottm / Courtesy Levi Zilverberg  

The Pierre Junior Shooters won their ninth Daisy National BB Gun Championship last week. Pictured are: (back row, l to r) Sean Kruger, Ireland Templeton, Jenna Kruger, Griffin Gates, Marlee Shorter, Sam Sterling, Jonathan Hays; (front row, l to r) Skyler Ruth, Jasmine Hays, Rylie Stoeser.

Juvenile drug arrests rise in S.D. despite reform efforts, Part II

The sharp rise in South Dakota’s juvenile drug arrest numbers also predates the juvenile justice reforms by more than five years. Tim Bormann of the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office said the creation of regional law enforcement task forces, made up of state, federal and local officers, might account for part of the increase in arrests. The first such task force, known as the Northern Plains Safe Trails Task Force, was created by federal officials in 1999.

At least some of the increase in juvenile drug arrests might be related to what’s going on with adults, Greg Sattizahn, chair of the South Dakota Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee, said, citing the rapid climb in adult drug arrests.

“It sure makes sense to me that if you have more drug use at home, you’ll have more kids exposed to it,” Sattizahn said.

Bormann said there are probably more youths doing drugs, too. But it’s hard to know whether that’s true or not. The biennial anonymous Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one of the nation’s most important tools for tracking substance abuse in teens, did not reach statistical validity in South Dakota in 2017. States administer the voluntary survey on behalf of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The YRBS collects information such as how many youths are doing drugs and what kinds of drugs they are taking. The last YRBS was administered in 2017 but not enough youths and schools participated, so the data gathered wasn’t considered representative of the state population.

Results from the 2007 to 2015 surveys showed the number of youths using marijuana was declining. The number of youths who were using meth fluctuated between about 3% to 5%.

Trends surrounding youths and prescription medication abuse haven’t been studied or reported. Questions about the issue weren’t added to the YRBS until 2011, so officials say there is not enough data to identify trends. But, in 2015, the YRBS estimated that about 13 percent of South Dakota teens had misused prescription drugs.

Nationally, according to the 2017 YRBS, the number of youths doing drugs was falling. Survey results from South Dakota and some other states were included in the CDC 2017 national report, but the percentage of youths who reported taking illegal drugs had fallen from 22.5% in 2007 to about 14% in 2017.

Finding good data on what youths are doing, what treatment programs seem to be working and which programs aren’t working has been a challenge for Sattizahn and the Juvenile Justice Oversight Council.

“We feel like we need that data,” Sattizahn said.

Bormann, who served as Faulk County state’s attorney before he became Ravnsborg’s chief of staff, said he has seen first-hand the challenges the legal system faces when trying to keep youths away from drugs. Reducing drug use in rural areas, in particular, has been a struggle, he said. Treatment centers, counselors, court services and judges tend to be concentrated in population centers, nsaid. For Faulk County, the nearest city with everything needed to run a successful treatment program was 60 miles away in Aberdeen.

“There are some great programs that are being used to great effect,” Bormann said. “But in a location like where I was, it didn’t always work.”

For all the challenges that exist in trying to reform the juvenile justice system and reduce the number of youths being arrested for drugs, there’s been a lot of success, Sattizahn said.

The number of youths sent to an out-of-home detention or treatment facility has dropped by more than half from 220 in 2014 to 82 in 2018. More youths and their families are completing diversion or treatment programs too, Sattizahn said. In 2018, 353 families completed Functional Family Therapy, for example.

“Before (the juvenile reforms) we couldn’t even identify what diversion programs there were in the state,” Sattizahn said.

One effort to improve access to diversion allows probation officers to set up and run their own diversion programs on a case-by-case basis, Sattizahn said.

“It’s kind of different because you have a court officer doing work outside the court system,” Sattizahn said.

One of South Dakota’s more well-known diversion programs is Teen Court. There are 12 Teen Court programs spread around the state. Usually, they are run by local non-profits. Essentially, Teen Courts function as sentencing courts for youths by youths. To be eligible for Teen Court, a juvenile arrestee has to plead guilty to the crime they were arrested for and be referred to the program by the local state’s attorney.

Aside from a judge, which usually is a local lawyer, the local coordinators, and a few parent volunteers, Teen Courts are run by youths. Teen volunteers from nearby high schools and middle schools act as attorneys for defendants, prosecutors and the jury. The defense attorneys and prosecutors question defendants and the jury ultimately decides on a fitting punishment.

The Central South Dakota Teen Court is based in the Stanley County Courthouse in Fort Pierre. The program saw 44 cases between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019. A total of 29 of those cases were marijuana- or alcohol-related, said Emily Steffen, who coordinates the program for Capital Area Counseling Services. Six of the cases were repeat offenders, she said.

Steffen said Teen Court is based on the principles of restorative justice, an idea that seeks to repair damage done by crime. Sentences range from community service and job shadows with police to writing essays and making apologies. Once a defendant’s punishment is complete, Steffen sends a letter to the state’s attorney recommending that the case be dropped.

“I think overall it’s really successful,” Steffen said.

There are limitations to what Teen Court can do, and youths who are sent to teen court for the first time have to pay a $60 fee. If they wind up in the program again, the fee jumps to $155. Teen Court also doesn’t see cases where defendants are accused of possessing or using hard drugs such as methamphetamines.

The state has also increased efforts to drill in on the root causes of drug use by youths, which often means examining home and family situations. Tiffany Wolfgang, division director for behavioral health at the state Department of Social Services, said one of the most important programs the department oversees when it comes to youths and drugs is functional family therapy. The idea, Wolfgang said, is to get a handle on some of the issues in a child’s home that might be pushing them toward substance abuse.

“It may be the kid who gets arrested but we need to look at the family,” Wolfgang said.

Functional Family Therapy, as the name suggests, works by treating the whole family. In all, 61 of South Dakota’s 67 counties had access to the program in 2018. Wolfgang said DSS also has been working to put systems of care coordinators in place to work within schools to help identify and work with youths who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders before they wind up in trouble with the law.

Challenges in providing such services are made more difficult due to the rural nature and sparse population of South Dakota, she said. Just because programs exist doesn’t mean they can be delivered everywhere or to everyone in the same way, Wolfgang said.

“It’s hard to develop intensive care programs,” she said.

The work is made harder by the nature of addiction, which often can be part of a deeper mental health issue, Wolfgang said.

“I think it can be hard at times for the justice system to understand behavioral health issues,” Wolfgang said.

South Dakota’s court system has been getting better at working with youths who have an addiction or have a mental illness, Wolfgang said, but progress takes time and patience.

“I think the challenge is that these aren’t quick fixes … these are complex issues that require collaboration,” Wolfgang said.

Missouri River Cleanup nets nearly two tons of trash

Nearly two tons of litter and trash were removed from the Missouri river on Wednesday, July 10, during the annual Missouri River – Lake Sharpe Cleanup.

Working mostly between 5 to 8 p.m., crews of volunteers were based out of the Downs Marina in Griffin Park in Pierre. There were 11 boats and 10 land-based crews out last night.

Almost 100 volunteers, working from just above Oahe Dam to Farm Island, collected 1.88 tons of materials. This included 2,180 pounds of litter and trash, 840 pounds of lumber, 540 pounds of scrap metal, and more than 200 pounds of tires. Last night’s total was 1,000 pounds more than last year. This year’s high runoff had brought many items into the river.

Lepisto and his crew of coordinators collected registration forms of themselves and of other volunteers. After everyone worked at collecting trash, weight totals were recorded when the roll-off collection containers were run across the scale at the solid waste facility. Even before they got to the scales, “by looking at what was collected, I think we have more weight than we got last year,” guessed Lepisto.

The 10th cleanup in the last 11 years has resulted in nearly 21 tons of trash being removed from areas along the water.

“The cleanup makes the river healthier for fish and wildlife, and a more pleasing place for people to recreate,” said Paul Lepisto, with the Izaak Walton League of America, the chief organizer for the annual project.

“The cleanup is a collaborative effort of the Pierre Chapter of the Izaak Walton League; South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the Army Corps of Engineers; the cities of Pierre and Fort Pierre; the South Dakota Department of Corrections; and the Pierre Young Professionals.” he said. “Many other local businesses and organizations also contribute to the effort.”

The organizers thank the many volunteers who worked hard again this year and the people and organizations who help make the effort possible.

Planning for next year’s Missouri River – Lake Sharpe Cleanup is already underway, said Lepisto.

spotlight watchdog centerpiece featured special report
4 Crow Creek tribal leaders arrested on federal embezzlement charges

Four former or current leaders of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe southeast of Pierre, including former tribal Chairwoman Roxanne Sazue, were arrested Thursday on federal charges of embezzling tribal funds.

The four — Roland Robert Hawk, Sr., Francine Maria Middletent, Jacquelyn Ernestine Pease, and Sazue — were in the Hughes County Jail in Pierre Thursday night and scheduled for initial appearances in federal court on Friday, July 12.

According to federal court documents filed Wednesday July 9, U.S. Attorney Ronald Parsons says a grand jury charged that since at least March 2014 (but possibly earlier) until about February 2019, Sazue, Hawk, Middletent and Pease “did embezzle, steal, willfully misapply, willfully permit to be misapplied, and convert to their own use more than $1,000 in monies, funds, credits, goods, assets and other property belonging to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe . . . and did aid and abet each other in committing the offense. . .”

If convicted, they each face a possible maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and three years of supervised probation.

The four are slated to appear at 10 a.m., Friday, July 12, in federal court in Pierre.

Roxanne Sazue was elected chairwoman of the Crow Creek Tribal Council in April 2014 and served two years and did not seek re-election, according to news reports.

She remains a noted Indian leader in the state.

In August, 2018, U.S. Attorney Parsons, in a news release about the 13th annual conference on Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation in the Sioux Falls Convention Center, mentioned Roxanne Sazue as one of several tribal leaders who made comments and provided testimony.

Middletent, according to her social media posts, tribal online documents and news stories, has been human resources officer for the tribe and finished a two-year term on the seven-member Crow Creek tribal council in April 2018.

She also was convicted 25 years ago of embezzling from the tribe.

Roland Hawk Sr. also completed a two-year term on the tribal council in April 2018 and is in the middle of another two-year term that ends April 2020.

According to an online document from the tribal council asking for proposals for an auditing firm to review the tribal’s financial statements in 2015, Middletent then was tribal finance officer and Hawk was treasurer.

In September 1994, Middletent, then 31, pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling more than $50,000 from the Crow Creek tribe’s liquor store in Fort Thompson while she worked in the financial office of the tribe, according to news reports and federal court documents.

In April, Hawk was charged in federal court with three counts of sexual assault on a young female tribal member.

Hawk, 50, pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in Pierre on April 16. The case has been continued, or postponed, until later this month, to give him more time to prepare his defense, according to court documents.

Hawk was released to the custody of his mother, with one of the conditions of his release being that he maintain his employment as tribal treasurer, as well as wearing a GPS bracelet.

In April, Tribal Chairman Lester Thompson said in a statement that Hawk was placed on leave until “there is a final disposition of this matter.” Hawk would assist in his duties as treasurer but would not have authority to sign or issue checks, Thompson said in April. Hawk earlier had been charged in Las Vegas with sexual crimes against the sister of the woman he’s charged with assaulting in Fort Thompson.

On Thursday, Chairman Thompson attended a meeting in Fort Pierre of tribal leaders from several tribes across the Great Plains and did not return a call to the Capital Journal about Thursday’s arrests.

The Crow Creek Indian Reservation is in parts of Hughes, Buffalo and Hyde counties along the east bank of the Missouri River, stretching from about 30 miles southeast of Pierre to about 30 miles north of Chamberlain, just across the river from the Lower Brule Indian Reservation. The reservation headquarters at Fort Thompson is 60 miles southeast of Pierre.

About half of the reservation’s population of 2,225 is made up of enrolled Crow Creek members; total tribal enrollment is estimated at more than 3,500, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A tribal source told the Capital Journal several other tribal leaders were expected to be arrested in connection with the alleged embezzlement. But federal court officials said they could not comment on the case beyond what the indictment of the four people charged contains.

Thomas Karol USAF

Thomas Karol USAF  

Sitting on the flight line at Ellsworth Air Force Base during ‘Combat Raider 19-2,’ is a C-17 Globemaster III, assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (Photo by Thomas Karol)

Sitting on the flight line at Ellsworth Air Force Base during ‘Combat Raider 19-2,’ is a C-17 Globemaster III, assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (Photo by Thomas Karol)

Blunt 4-H Rodeo: A Family Tradition

In the 1960s, 4-H became a great way to get youth involved in club activities and fill their time with different projects. Rich Ping started a club in Blunt for his son, Dave Ping, and other kids to join.

On July 20, 1970, the Lariat Riding Club of Blunt along with the County 4-H Extension agents of Hughes and Sully Counties produced the Blunt 4-H Rodeo. Dave Ping won the first bull riding title that day, and started a family tradition that would continue on for fifty years at the Blunt 4-H Rodeo.

The future would see Dave’s son, Travis Ping, compete in 4-H rodeos. He also won a bull riding title at the Blunt 4-H Rodeo. The third rodeoing-generation of the Ping family would continue on the winning tradition. Travis Ping’s son, Talon Ping, would eventually be crowned the Blunt 4-H Rodeo Bull Riding Champion. Talon and his sister, Lanie Ping, are both currently participating in 4-H rodeos, and will be contestants in this year’s 50th Annual Blunt 4-H Rodeo.

The contestants aren’t the only ones who pass their love of rodeo on, donating time and elbow grease. Lee and Punky Bourk of Blunt were instrumental in the start of Blunt’s Lariat Riding Club and the 4-H rodeo. Their son, Keith Bourk, and granddaughter, Lizzy Bourk, are both past competitors and active members today. The Bourks work to produce the annual 4-H rodeo.

Erv and LaFola Korkow, with the help of their son Jim, also helped lay the foundation of Blunt’s Lariat Riding Club and the 4-H rodeo. Their great-granddaughter, Chesley Clair, will be the second generation of the Korkow/Clair family to get to compete in the Blunt 4-H Rodeo. Clair will be following her mom’s footsteps of competing in and now helping with the rodeo. Many families in the Blunt area chip in to make the rodeo a success every year.

Sponsors are another tradition that have helped keep the Blunt 4-H Rodeo alive for fifty years. Many local businesses donate yearly to help pay for awards. The top four contestants in each event earn an award, ranging from buckles for first place to horse tack for second through fourth. Saddles are being given to the All-Around Cowboy and Cowgirl this year in honor of the 50th anniversary thanks to generous sponsors. Donors are necessary and much appreciated.

The 50th Annual Blunt 4-H Rodeo will be July 20-21. It will start at 9:30 a.m. CT each day. There will be no charge for admittance at the gate. Concessions will be available.

watchdog featured
City crew fixes busted water main in SE Pierre

A water main broke open Thursday in southeast Pierre not far from the Missouri River and a city crew worked most of the day fixing it.

A crew of city workers with a backhoe dug a deep hole to uncover the broken, 6-inch pipe, pumping out the water leaking from the pipe and filling the hole, which appeared to be about 10 feet below the street surface.

It happened on McKinley Avenue near its intersection with Cleveland Avenue, east of the Oahe Softball Complex and southwest of the Pierre Indian Learning Center.

The “ductile” pipe was new when it was installed in 1977 just before this part of town was developed, said Lynn Patton, construction and operations manager for the city. “If we didn’t have such corrosive soils, that would still be a new pipe,” he told the Capital Journal. Pierre’s special mix of shale and other elements in the soil cut into the life of iron pipe in the ground, whether the older, more brittle cast iron or the newer “ductile,” which has nickel and other metals added in to give the pipe some flexibility, Patton said.

The break likely would be repaired using a piece of PVC connected by stainless-steel sleeves after the bad part of the old pipe was cut out, Patton said.

The neighborhood around the Cleveland and McKinley avenues was built in the 1970s and this corroded pipe was newly installed in 1977, city records show, Patton said.

It appeared only about a half-dozen customers along that avenue were out of water during the fix, Patton said. If a nearby shut-off valve didn’t work properly, it might mean another half-dozen residences out of water during the repair time, he said.

Most of the city’s water mains are about 6 feet underground but this one appeared to be closer to 10 feet below the street’s surface.