Next Monday, January 7, two South Dakota state employees who risked their jobs to punish a rapist of a Lakota foster girl are being put on trial for crimes they didn’t commit. It’s part of an effort by state authorities to prevent anyone from exposing corruption at the Department of Social Services.
Here’s the background on the trial: last year, Brandon Taliaferro and Shirley Schwab—an assistant state attorney and court-appointed child advocate, respectively—discovered that two teenage Lakota foster sisters in Aberdeen, SD were being sexually abused by their adoptive parent, Richard Mette. Brandon and Shirley encouraged the girls to tell the truth about the abuse, and now Richard Mette is serving a 15-year prison sentence for child rape.
As in so many cases, the girls are Lakota children who were taken from their homes by the state and placed in non-Native foster care instead of with family members—all in direct violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
After an NPR report in October 2011 exposed rampant violations of ICWA by South Dakota’s Department of Social Services (DSS), state authorities responded by attacking critics from within. That’s the real reason that Brandon and Shirley are being put on trial. They uncovered evidence that the Lakota girls were being abused and saw first hand that DSS refused to investigate. When they accused the state of discriminating against Lakota children and families, the state charged them with “unauthorized disclosure of confidential information” and “witness tampering.”
Will you help us get media and observers to the trial next Monday by forwarding this message to your networks? And will you pressure the House Committee on Natural Resources (Indian Affairs) to get involved by sending a short note in your own words to Rep. Ben Lujan (D-NM) here? (Be sure to include the case #: CR 10-11-13; Fifth Circuit Superior Court of South Dakota).
Our executive staff will be present at the trial, along with other "Official Observers." Please join us if you can!
WHEN: Monday, January 7th at 9:00 AM
WHERE: 5th Circuit Court, 101 SE 1st Ave in Aberdeen, SD
Pilamaya (Thank you),
The Lakota People’s Law Project Organizing Team
PS: To learn more about the Mette sexual abuse scandal, see these two published articles: 1) 100 Reporters;
2) Lakota People's Law Project Special Report.
In May 2012, our research and investigative team released a Special Report that exposed the state of South Dakota's efforts to retaliate against assistant state attorney Brandon Taliaferro and child advocate Shirley Schwab. For additional background on the case, please read our report: Justice as Retaliation.
You can support our research and investigative work by making a donation to the Lakota Child Legal Action Fund.
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