An Augustana University professor was accused by a woman with whom he had had consensual relations with foisting physical attentions on her after she said no. She said she just wanted to cuddle. Professor Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat, was just elected to the South Dakota Senate. The only news source which is dealing with the incident with anything akin to a comprehensive journalistic treatment is the Dakota Free Press.
The complication is that the arrest appears to involve some lengthy and detailed planning so that a television reporter confronted the professor with the arrest warrant before law enforcement informed him of it and so that the actual arrest with the professor being hand-cuffed and loaded into a van could be recorded as a television production.
In addition to making the arrest a large public display, the timeline in processing the complaint raises questions of why law enforcement is making such a publicity production of it.
- 26 Sept., Monday: Date of incident
- 28 Sept., Wednesday: Date incident was reported, Officer Van Dyke dispatched to obtain report.
- 29 Sept., Thursday: Date incident was investigated by Detective Chris Schoepf.
- 30 Sept., Friday: Date Nesiba agreed to an interview by Schoepf.
- 11 Oct.: Date Schoepf’s warrant request was notarized.
- 8 Nov.: Date warrant request was filed.
- 14 Nov.: Date warrant was served and arrest was made.
- [The warrant request made available contains no approval signature from a judge.]
1-27-1.5. The following records are not subject to §§ 1-27-1, 1-27-1.1, and 1-27-1.3: [required public disclosure]. (5) Records developed or received by law enforcement agencies and other public bodies charged with duties of investigation or examination of persons, institutions, or businesses, if the records constitute a part of the examination, investigation, intelligence information, citizen complaints or inquiries, informant identification, or strategic or tactical information used in law enforcement training. However, this subdivision does not apply to records so developed or received relating to the presence of and amount or concentration of alcohol or drugs in any body fluid of any person, and this subdivision does not apply to a 911 recording or a transcript of a 911 recording, if the agency or a court determines that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest in nondisclosure. This law in no way abrogates or changes §§ 23-5-7 and 23-5-11 or testimonial privileges applying to the use of information from confidential informants;
- Misconduct by Government Actors
- Some wrongful convictions are caused by honest mistakes. But in far too many cases, the very people who are responsible for ensuring truth and justice — law enforcement officials and prosecutors — lose sight of these obligations and instead focus solely on securing convictions.
- While many law enforcement officers and prosecutors are honest and trustworthy, criminal justice is a human endeavor and the possibility for negligence, misconduct and corruption exists. Even if one officer of every thousand is dishonest, wrongful convictions will continue to occur.
High profile cases in South Dakota include the alleged suicide of Morgan Lewis, a professor at NSU, in 2004. There were peculiarities about the crime scene and some partial witness accounts which seemed to indicate murder. Initially, the coroner listed the cause of death as murder. There were some unexplained resignations in the police department at the time, one of them directly relating to the handling of Morgan Lewis' death. After a period of months, the Chief of Police held a press conference and said the death had been determined to be a suicide. He said he had hired outside consultants to reach that conclusion, but no records of the conduct of the investigation or the review of the materials was ever released to the press and the public. It left the public feeling skeptical and wary about the handling of the death.
A most obvious case is the alleged suicide of Richard Benda in 2013, who was a major player in the Northern Beef Packers-EB5 scandal. No one has ever had access to the full investigative record and aspects of the crime scene suggest the possibility of foul play. Reporter Bob Mercer tried to pursue the records all the way up to the state Supreme Court, but the court backed up the Attorney General's right to withhold them, if he pleased. State officials were clearly implicated in that scandal, but without records of a full investigation, their exact role and participation in the scandal could be examined by the public..
The 2015 murder of his wife and two children by Scott Westerhuis has conclusive forensic evidence about the deaths, but the investigative record on the many state officials and others involved in the handling of the federal Gear Up funds has never been made public. Although some arrests and pending prosecutions of people involved are in process, a full accounting of the embezzlement and fraud involved is not available to the press or the public.
So, when the state code seems to be to withhold any detailed information, the level of disclosure and orchestrated publicity on the arrest of Reynold Nesiba stands out. It seems compounded by the protection of the identity of the "victim," as Detective Schoepf consistently refers to the complainant throughout his report. The names of minors involved in unsavory incidents are withheld by law. The identity of rape victims is withheld in press accounts as a matter of discretionary policy, but in sexual assault cases which are brought forward and pursued by a complainant when there is no corroborating evidence about the particular acts of offense, the identity of the complainant is generally considered an essential part of the prosecutorial process. The arrest, in this case, seems to have been justified on the word of the complainant.
Suffice to say at this point, that the handling of this case raises many questions about why it is being handled in the way it is. But in South Dakota, don't expect any reasons.