Kimberly Rich, facing possibly long years in prison for drug charges in Pierre, based on her criminal history and recent charges, was given an unusual chance Tuesday by state Circuit Judge John Brown: get out of jail while her case proceeds, on bond and in the custody of a West River rancher who will put her to work.
Rich is 53 and has spent a big part of her life behind bars, mostly for drug-related offenses, the rancher told the Capital Journal last month. But she’s proven she’s a good worker when she stays away from meth and other drugs, the rancher said.
Because of her past crimes, her recent ones for which she’s facing several charges in two files, could, in theory, put her in prison for more than 100 years.
Judge Brown did some of the math for her at her April 17 arraignment when she pleaded not guilty on the advice of her attorney. Tara Adamski has represented Rich over the span of a decade and more, according to court records.
Rich has spent time in the state Women’s Prison and in local jails. Rich grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, where her mother still lives. But she’s been convicted of serious drug crimes across the state since at least 2002.
Last summer Rich was charged with drug-related crimes, including felony burglary, in Pierre. The charges have their possible sentences “enhanced” two full steps under state guidelines because of her many past crimes, tallied up in charges by Hughes County State’s Attorney Roxanne Hammond. Just two charges in one file add up to maximum sentences totaling 65 years, Brown told her. The other file had too many counts to count that day in court, but the enhancement based on her being charges as a “habitual offender,” easily would put the total, in theory, over 100 years. Practically speaking, no one expects her to be sentenced to that much time. But she could get serious time.
On Tuesday, May 14, Rich was back in court, in orange stripes and shackles, for a status hearing as Adamski and Hammond talk about her case. Adamski told Judge Brown “we are still working on,” a possible plea agreement.
It was learned Tuesday Rich’s status will change, for now. Judge Brown agreed to Rich’s request to release her to the custody of an old family friend, Clark Blake, who ranches and farms north of the Black Hills.
Rich told Brown that Blake had agreed to take responsibility for her and put her to work on his farm and ranch and also cleaning a cafe.
Blake told the Capital Journal last month that Rich has worked for him before and that she could “do about anything.”
The rancher, who was named in court Tuesday as Judge Brown and prosecutor Hammond asked about the plan to release Rich on bond, told the Capital Journal last month that Rich was a good person.
“She’s a good worker, she’s a good person,” the rancher said. “She just can’t keep her (stuff) together.”
Meth use has plagued her for years, said the rancher.
She will be far away from any possible trouble, 45 miles from a town, Adamski, told Judge Brown. It will be difficult for Rich to get into trouble so far away from city lights and “she will be working, to some degree, day and night, in farming activities and as well as cleaning a . .. . cafe.”
Hammond told Brown she was concerned that with Rich’s history of getting connected to others with drugs and getting high, whether “we would be able to find her.”
Last summer when she was arrested, Rich used an ID card which had belonged to Blake’s late wife, part of her profile of trying to elude police, Hammond said.
Blake told the Capital Journal last month he had not been aware of that and that Rich had apologized to him.
Although Rich has been held recently with no bond allowed, she had posted $2,000 bond earlier that remains on the books, Brown said.
“Well, I’m going to order the $2,000 previously posted be allowed to cover both files and I will allow her to be released.”
Clark plans to pick up Rich on Thursday from the Hughes County Jail and drive her back to his ranch.
Rich told Brown that the rancher knew her mother and she has known him for 20 years.
“I won’t have cell service out there,” Rich said. “I need help. I can’t be on my own.” So Blake will watch out for her, she said.
Rich will be so far from things that it wouldn’t be possible to put her into the 24/7 program of twice-daily testing required for many offenders out on probation or other release, Brown said.
But he ordered that she be subject to “random search and seizure” and drug and alcohol testing, routine in most releases-on-bond and probation situations.
Hammond asked Brown if the cafe where Rich will be working had a liquor license.
“I’m sure it does,” Brown said. “I’m pretty familiar with that area.”
Adamski said one part of the cafe does serve alcohol and the other part is a family dining area. But Rich will be working there after hours, cleaning, when no one is drinking, according to Adamski.
Brown set Rich’s next court date for June 25; he retires June 8. Gov. Kristi Noem in March named longtime Assistant Attorney General M. Bridget Mayer to replace Brown on the state’s Sixth Circuit bench.
Judge Brown grew up on a ranch in Harding County in the far northwest corner of South Dakota and said he was familiar with the cafe where Rich would be working after hours cleaning..
“I do happen to know Mr. Blake,” Brown told Rich and the two attorneys. “I think he will keep an eye on you.”