Joseph Raleigh, the former Miller, South Dakota Baptist pastor facing state and federal felony charges that he used the internet to meet and pay a 15-year-old girl for sex, has reached a plea deal with the feds.
But he’s still negotiating a deal with the Hughes County prosecutor on separate state charges over the same incident in Blunt, South Dakota and is asking for a postponement of his June 7 federal trial schedule to get it worked out.
And so the terms of the federal deal may not be available until the state case is resolved. But Raleigh faced possibly serious prison time in both the federal and state cases.
Raleigh was 34 when he was arrested Oct. 16 in Blunt, about 20 miles northeast of Pierre, after setting up online what he thought was a payoff to a pimp who would provide the girl.
It was all a state police sting, according to court documents.
Federal prosecutors charged him with commercial sex trafficking of children, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison; and attempted enticement of a minor using the internet, which carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years supervised probation up to a lifetime of probation.
Meanwhile, Hughes County State’s Attorney Wendy Kloeppner charged Raleigh in state court in Pierre with solicitation of a minor, a Class 4 felony with a top penalty of 10 years in prison; and a misdemeanor count of trying to hire someone for sex.
According to statements made in court, Raleigh has been working on a federal plea deal for several months. In a document filed May 26 asking for the 30-day continuance, his federal public defender Neil Fulton told the court that a “plea agreement has been negotiated and reduced to writing,” in the federal case. “There is, however, a pending case involving the same incident in Hughes County, South Dakota. Additional time is needed to complete plea negotiations in that matter so that both state and federal charges are resolved.”
The federal prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Albertson, does not oppose Raleigh’s request for more time, “at least 30 days past June 7,” Fulton said.
Since November, Raleigh has been free on release – including a personal recognizance bond from state court - to a halfway house in Sioux Falls, after spending more than a month in jail in Pierre.
He resigned from the church in Miller within days of his arrest.
U.S. Attorney Randolph Seiler told the Capital Journal on Tuesday that the request to continue the trial schedule would include also extending the deadline for filing the plea agreement, so the terms of the deal are not yet public.
In such a case, federal and state officials work together, from both the public defenders’ side and the prosecutors, he said.
“I want to emphasize that we have an outstanding working relationship with Hughes County State’s Attorney Wendy Kloeppner,” Seiler said. “We coordinate and discuss with her potential charges and we basically review and discuss with her the status of the case.”