Apr 5, 2015 - Lakota People’s Law Project calls for formal inquiry into whether South Dakota Attorney General conspired against children who were victims of sexual abuse

Calls for formal inquiry into whether South Dakota Attorney General conspired against children who were victims of sexual abuse


Matthew Renda
Lakota People’s Law Project
Press Director
Phone: 831-459-6135


The Lakota People’s Law Project joins Shirley Schwab and a growing chorus of voices in requesting the United States Department of Justice to launch a full-scale investigation into the Mette Rape Scandal.

“Discussion is widespread among the citizenry of South Dakota concerning the degree to which state officials were involved in conduct that at best could be construed as unethical and at worst is outright criminal,” said Lakota People’s Law Project counsel Daniel Sheehan. “The implications of the case go all the way to the number one law enforcement official in South Dakota — Attorney General Marty Jackley. While a number of key figures in the case have implicated Mr. Jackley in the more scurrilous aspects of the case, the true degree of his involvement in the case will not be disclosed unless a full-scale federal criminal investigation is launched. The citizens of South Dakota have a right to know about the details of this case.”

The Lakota People’s Law Project (LPLP) was the first organization to uncover the Mette Rape Scandal, publishing a full investigative report on the matter in 2013. The sordid tale involved more than a decade of gross sexual abuse perpetrated by Richard Mette against Lakota foster care children that were placed in the home by the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS).

Despite mounting evidence that the children placed in the Mette home by DSS agents only to be abused both sexually, the DSS absolutely refused to remove the abused children from his custody during a period during which the DSS was under intense scrutiny for their reckless conduct toward Indian children.

In 2010, when doctors found unmistakable physical evidence of the physical abuse the one male Mette foster care child, local police were sent to the Mette home and uncovered unmistakable proof of the scale of the sexual depravity being perpetrated against these Indian children by this white man. But DSS officials continued to refuse to remove the children, insisting that it was “exclusively up to the DSS to determine whether of not these children were being sexually abused.” And they refused to make such a determination – despite the findings of the police.

Brown County Prosecutor Brandon Taliaferro began his own independent investigation of that case immediately thereafter in 2010 and, based upon his own findings (including personally observing numerous “sex toys” and other pornographic materials in Richard Mette’s home – exactly as those materials had been described to him by the Mette children – he filed 23 felony counts of aggravated child abuse, incest, rape of a child under the age of 10 and other serious felony charges against Richard Mette – many of which would have mandated the life imprisonment of Richard Mette – and 11 serious felony counts of child abuse and “aiding & abetting” sexual crimes against Wendy Mette, his wife.

When Taliaferro began internally complaining to South Dakota state officials about the willfully reckless conduct on the part of the DSS reflected by this case – and numerous other cases which convinced Taliaferro that South Dakota State Department of Social Services officials and personnel were consciously “discriminating” against Lakota children and their Indian parents, Taliaferro was removed from the case by his immediate Supervisor, Brown County State’s Attorney Kimberly Dorsett.

An LPLP investigation conducted into Attorney Dorsett has revealed she maintained a $75,000 personal annual contract with the DSS, serving as a “Consultant” whose continuing contract relationship required that she not engage in any conduct that could be deemed contrary to the interests of the DSS. Taliaferro’s official conduct therefore constituted a danger to State Attorney Dorsett’s continued ability to be given $75,000 a year by the DSS.

After removing Taliaferro, another attorney appointed by Dorsett, Michael Moore, dropped 22 of the 23 counts against Richard Mette and all 11 counts against Wendy Mette.

Mark Black, the Chief Investigator with South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigations who was the lead investigator on the case, has since publicly announced that it was Attorney General Jackley himself who personally ordered Moore to drop the charges against Wendy Mette so the children could be placed back in the home with Wendy Mette, so this would reduce any chance that the children might file a civil lawsuit against the DSS.

“The most shameful consequence (of the Mette Rape Scandal) being that (the victimized children) were returned to an adopted mother who did not protect them and this was as a result of the actions of Kimberly Dorsett and Marty Jackley,” Black said in a prepared statement released.

After more than 33 charges against the Mettes were dropped, the state then prosecuted Taliaferro and Shirley Schwab, the only two people who advocated for the abused children, accusing them of coaching the children to lie.

When the case went to trial in January 2013, Judge Gene Paul Keen tossed the case against Taliaferro and Schwab out of court and admonished the prosecution for even bringing charges with such lacking evidence.

“As if this gross miscarriage of justice was not enough, the Mette children are still in the home of their abuse,” said Daniel Sheehan. “The specter of these abused children living in the home of their trauma is beyond the pale. The fact that the very state officials whose duty it was to protect them, instead elected to cover up information, undertake to block any civil lawsuit against the state and bring knowingly false criminal charges against innocent child advocates demonstrates the clear and urgent need for the Federal Department of Justice to investigate and bring indictments if the evidence supports such charges.”

Jackley has long maintained his innocence in the case and deflected responsibility, but Mark Black said Jackley not only had direct knowledge of the proceedings by Dorsett and Moore, but was responsible for much of the strategy.

Black revealed that Jackley’s top two campaign contributors, Averra Health and Sanford Health, were financially benefitting from federal reimbursements related to Native American children in foster care placement and thus Jackley had a personal vested financial interest in discrediting Taliaferro and Schwab and covering up the unlawful and unconstitutional conduct on the part of the State Department of Social Services. Furthermore, when Black conducted a raid of Shirley Schwab’s house in connection with her arrest, he can be heard on a recording telling Schwab that this case was Jackley’s number one priority.

To this day, Lakota People’s Law Project cannot be sure to the extent of Jackley’s involvement in the case.

Indeed, when Black conducted a raid of Shirley Schwab’s house in connection with her arrest, he was recorded telling Schwab that this case was Jackley’s “number one priority.”

“There is only one reliable way to determine the degree to which Marty Jackley was – or was not – personally involved in the criminality displayed in this case,” said Daniel Sheehan. “The Department of Justice must immediately investigate this issue, subpoena communications between Dorsett and Jackley and Moore and put them all under oath in sworn depositions to determine the truth of this matter. The people of South Dakota have a right to know if their top law enforcement official engaged in criminal and unconstitutional conduct in this case. These Mette children have a right to justice. They have a right to know the truth and they have a right to legal recourse should it be found that these state officials were, first, criminally negligent in their treatment for a period stretching back to 2000 and continuing to the present – and then criminally responsible for the retaliation against those who tried to protect these children.

A few things are clear. State Attorney Dorsett fired Taliaferro while she had a contract with the DSS which contained a duty to not do anything that might be perceived as being contrary to the interests of the DSS. And Mark Black, the Chief Investigator in the case, has publicly accused Dorsett of doctoring affidavits to make it appear like abused children were lying and he has accused Marty Jackley of ordering the criminal prosecution of innocent state employees who tried to protect these children.

“If the allegations of Black and Schwab are true, you have here a serious case of a state cover up of Indian child sex abuse,” said Daniel Sheehan. “The people of South Dakota demand justice for the Mette children. They demand to know the truth.”

The Lakota People’s Law Project is a subsidiary of the 501(c)(3) Romero Institute. Learn more at romeroinstitute.org and lakotalaw.org

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