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Former Pine Ridge pediatrician facing new child sexual abuse charges in Montana

A year after being charged with multiple child sex crimes in South Dakota, a former Pine Ridge pediatrician is now facing similar charges in Montana.

Federal court records unsealed Friday show that 69-year-old Stanley Patrick Weber was charged by a Montana grand jury last month with five new criminal counts. They are attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child, attempted sexual abuse of a minor, abusive sexual contact of a minor and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

Weber’s charging document states that between July 1993 and June 1995, he molested two Native American boys on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, located in northwest Montana.

One of the boys was younger than 12 during the alleged incidents, and the other was 12 to 15 years old, according to the indictment filed Feb. 22.

Weber, of Spearfish, was a doctor on the Blackfeet reservation during this period. He worked there for the Indian Health Service from July 1992 to June 1995, IHS spokeswoman Jennifer Buschick told the Journal.

Weber pleaded not guilty to all the charges at the federal courthouse in Great Falls, Mont., Tuesday morning. He is tentatively scheduled for trial in May.

His most serious charges — aggravated sexual abuse of a child and attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child — are each punishable by up to life in prison.

Weber was placed on an ankle monitor by the federal court in South Dakota after his indictment last February on 10 counts of child sexual abuse. The South Dakota offenses allegedly occurred after the ones in Montana.

Federal prosecutors in South Dakota say that between 1998 and 2011, Weber molested four Native children on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where he worked at the IHS hospital as a pediatrician. He became the hospital’s acting clinical director at one point and resigned in 2016.

Weber’s South Dakota charges include aggravated sexual abuse and sexual abuse, each of which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. His trial date here is pending.

Weber has hired five lawyers on his South Dakota case, including two Denver attorneys who have asked the court’s permission to also represent him in Montana.

The Montana court allowed Weber to remain free from jail on bond under the South Dakota District’s supervision. The conditions of his release include not having any contact with minors, according to court records.

In a related case, a former chief executive of the Pine Ridge Hospital is expected to plead guilty Friday to lying about accepting money from Weber while they were working together at the hospital.

It’s not clear why Weber gave Wehnona Stabler a $5,000 check, which she admitted not reporting in 2014 despite federal employment requirements.

More guns in schools not the answer, authorities say at forum

Adding more guns to schools is not the best way for Rapid City to prevent or respond to a mass shooting, some local law enforcement officials said Tuesday evening during a safety forum at the Western Dakota Tech Event Center.

Rapid City Police Lt. Brian Blenner, who oversees the department’s school liaison program, answered an audience question about whether more firearms will be allowed to enter the school.

“We don’t believe that is a valid option for us,” Blenner said.

Blenner and about a dozen additional speakers at the forum focused instead on other approaches that the police, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and Rapid City Area Schools are taking in response to school shootings across the country.

The forum, which had an audience of perhaps 200, began with presentations from school and law enforcement officials.

Matthew Seebaum, assistant superintendent of educational services, explained the school district’s use of a program called Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, or PBIS, to identify and deal with problem student behaviors before they escalate into violence. He also spoke about his office’s efforts to track students with chronic behavior problems, to support and notify their parents, and to suspend or expel students when necessary.

Seebaum said each of the district’s schools has a counselor, although their caseloads are heavy. He said the district is launching a pilot program with Behavior Management Systems at four schools that could lead to more mental health services for students.

Seebaum additionally spoke of the district’s crisis plan for responding to events such as mass shootings, and he said great progress has been made in recent years to secure the district’s buildings. That progress includes limited electronic access at all schools; keyless entry at nearly every school; secured, single points of entry at all schools; and updated security cameras at all schools.

Blenner, along with Sgt. Chris Hislip of the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, spoke about the implementation this school year of a program called ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. All of the staff and students in the district have undergone ALICE training and drills.

Blenner and Hislip described ALICE as an improvement over past training that stressed simple lockdowns. ALICE encourages the sharing of information, the use of techniques to distract and disrupt shooters, and evacuation when it’s a better option than hiding, among other things.

“The best thing about ALICE is it’s option-based,” Blenner said. “None of this has to happen in order. It’s based on what that teacher wants to do with their students.”

Chief of Police Karl Jegeris and Pennington County Chief Deputy Willie Whelchel spoke about each department’s plans and preparation for responding to a school shooting. The preparation includes long-range assault rifles that are easily accessible to school liaison officers but are highly secured to guard against their use by others, Jegeris said.

Jegeris said there are 129 local police officers and 50 to 60 patrol deputies who are all ready to respond to school shootings.

“Each and every one of them is prepared to address the threat in an active shooter situation,” Jegeris said.

Whelchel stressed that local authorities take all tips about potential school violence seriously, even to the point that they have been accused of taking them too seriously.

“We’re taking it as a threat until we know it is not a threat,” Whelchel said.

After the presentations, a group of 12 officials from the school district and local law-enforcement agencies responded to written questions from the audience. Lori Simon, superintendent of Rapid City Area Schools, served as moderator.

One question asked about the safety of open-campus high school policies. Jegeris indicated those policies might need a review.

“The less people that we have coming and going throughout the day at different times of the day, and especially the lunch hour, the better our ability to monitor the activities around the school is going to be,” Jegeris said. “So, I would encourage that to be a part of the discussion as our community moves forward.”

In response to a question about whether the school district would support stricter gun control laws, Simon moved quickly to avoid controversy.

“I’ll respond to this one,” Simon said. “The answer is no, we will not. As staff members we have school board policy which prohibits us from taking any side on a political view such as this.”

Blenner’s comments about his opposition to arming Rapid City teachers came in response to a question from the audience. Blenner told a story about participating in a training scenario in which he armed a teacher with an airsoft gun and instructed the teacher to fire upon seeing a “bad guy.”

Although the teacher was proficient with firearms and had the airsoft gun at the ready, Blenner said, the teacher was not able to get a shot off before the “bad guy” shot the teacher. Meanwhile, students and other staff in the training scenario threw objects at the “bad guy” and used a swarm technique to take him to the ground.

Blenner said Stevens and Central high schools each have two school liaison officers, Rapid City High School and all the middle schools each have one, and the elementary schools receive visits from the middle-school officers.

With all of those liaison officers, plus other factors including ALICE training for school staff and students, law-enforcement response training, building security measures, and quick law-enforcement response times within the city, Blenner said Rapid City does not need armed teachers.

“Is that good for everywhere in the state? No, not necessarily,” Blenner said. “If you live in a rural area, I think your school district maybe needs to look at their options to see if they would want somebody trained in their school that’s maybe non-law-enforcement.”

The forum lasted nearly two hours until Simon ended it. She still had a stack of written audience questions, which she said will soon be answered in writing on the school district’s website.

After the forum, audience members Lisa Porisch and Nicci Jansen said they still have concerns about school safety.

Jansen said she would like each elementary school to have its own liaison officer, rather than sharing officers with the middle schools. Jansen also said she would like to know what preventative efforts the school lacks funding for, so that parents could help obtain the funding, possibly through grant applications.

Porisch said more mental health services are needed, and she wishes more counselors could be sent to children’s homes.

But both mothers were encouraged by what they heard from local authorities.

“I feel a little more reassured knowing what they’re doing,” Porisch said.

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SD Senate votes for $4,500 pay raise


PIERRE | The Senate agreed Tuesday evening with the House of Representatives that members of the Legislature should receive nearly $4,500 more when lawmakers start their new terms in 2019.

Now one of the chambers faces a decision whether to step forward and give final approval. The increase has the support of Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

The new amount would be nearly $10,500. The pay has been $6,000 per year since the 1999 session.

Senators voted 28-6 for the increase in HB 1311. Lawmakers also receive mileage and per-diem payments during legislative sessions and for attending official meetings at the Capitol and other locations.

The raise being eyed by South Dakota Legislature members would equate to one-fifth of the median household income in South Dakota each year based on the current population survey. House members voted 50-16 Monday for a similar measure, SB 214.

Sen. Jeff Partridge led the charge Tuesday in the Senate. “This bill looks to strengthen the Legislature,” said Partridge, R-Rapid City. He said many citizens believe legislators make much more than they do.

Fighting against it was Sen. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton. Employees of state government, providers of Medicaid health care providers and employees of public schools don’t know yet whether they will see any raises this year from the Legislature, he said.

“We’ve got major financial problems in the state,” Nelson said.

Many senators defended the proposed raise. “Look around the room. We’re retired or self-employed. The average person cannot give up their time to come out here and serve,” Sen. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls, said.

Sen. Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish, disagreed with one of Nelson’s points. “Legislative pay has not been on top of our minds this whole session,” Ewing said, adding that paying more to others has been.

Sen. Jordan Youngberg, R-Madison, said many citizens can’t afford to take most of the winter to serve in Pierre. He issued a challenge: “Give it back if you don’t need the money.” He pledged to give his increase to state government or a charity.

Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, described his “evolution.”

“I’ve done a little grandstanding in the past, I will admit,” Greenfield said, recalling the time he tried to cut legislator salaries in half. On Tuesday he supported paying more: “This is an ask that is still honest. This is an ask that is still appropriate."

Journal file photo 

St. Thomas More's Klaire Kirsch puts up a shot earlier this season against Sturgis.

US greets talk of N. Korea nuke concessions with hope, skepticism

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump greeted North Korea's reported willingness to negotiate away its atomic weapons with both hope and skepticism Tuesday, insisting a potential diplomatic breakthrough be tested against the North's long history of deception and threats to target U.S. cities with nuclear missiles.

"I really believe they are sincere," Trump said at a White House news conference, sounding more optimistic than his intelligence chief, Dan Coats, who told a Senate hearing he has "very, very low confidence" that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un intends to give up his nuclear arms.

"Maybe this is a breakthrough. I seriously doubt it," Coats said.

A senior South Korean presidential adviser said Tuesday that Kim expressed a willingness to discuss nuclear disarmament and halt nuclear and missile tests during future talks with the United States. The North didn't confirm those concessions, which would amount to a dramatic about-face for a nation that has frequently vowed to preserve its nuclear arsenal at any cost.

Chung Eui-yong, the South Korean official who spoke after participating in talks with Kim in Pyongyang, also said the North Korean dictator had agreed to meet with South Korea's president at a border village in late April.

Trump, who last fall told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson he was "wasting his time" trying to talk with the North, tweeted Tuesday that "possible progress" had been made in North Korea's capital and that all sides were making serious efforts. He added: "May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!"

Later, in an Oval Office photo session with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, Trump said the North Koreans "seem to be acting positively," but that the prospects will be clearer when diplomacy moves to the next stage.

"We have come certainly a long way, at least rhetorically, with North Korea," Trump said. Of the possibility for peacefully resolving the nations' deep differences, he said: "It'd be a great thing for the world, would be a great for North Korea, it would be a great thing for the peninsula. But we'll see what happens."

In Chung's account, Kim indicated he would not need to keep nuclear weapons if military threats against North Korea were removed and his nation received a credible security guarantee. That suggests the possibility Kim will insist in any deal that the U.S. withdraw its nearly 28,000 troops from South Korea. The North sees those forces and their periodic exercises with South Korean troops as a threat to invade the North.

The White House issued a brief statement from Vice President Mike Pence suggesting nothing has changed in that area. A U.S. official said there were no plans to scrap the war games envisioned for next month.

"All options are on the table, and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible, verifiable and concrete steps toward denuclearization," Pence said.

Separately, highlighting a less-discussed dimension of the standoff with North Korea, the Pentagon's military intelligence chief told a Senate hearing that Kim has taken a "far different" approach to military preparedness than his father, Kim Jong Il, by imposing greater rigor and discipline in army training. Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, called it a "big change" and implied the improvements should be taken into account in considering the prospect of war on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea's willingness to hold a "candid dialogue" with the United States to discuss denuclearization and establish diplomatic relations follows a year of increased fears of war, with Kim and Trump exchanging fiery rhetoric and crude insults over Kim's barrage of weapons tests. The Trump administration also pushed through some of the harshest economic sanctions any country has ever faced.

Trump said Kim's apparent willingness to negotiate is likely due to the sanctions, and China's role in applying them.

Still, there is wide skepticism that Tuesday's developments will bring genuine peace between the Koreas, which have a long history of failing to follow through with major rapprochement agreements. The United States has made it clear it doesn't want empty talks with North Korea and that all options, including military measures, are in play until the North actually surrenders its nuclear weapons, believed to number around 30.

"We have seen nothing to indicate ... that he would be willing to give up those weapons," Coats said.

Chung said the two Koreas would hold a summit at a South Korea-controlled facility. He said Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will establish a "hotline" communication channel to lower military tensions, and would speak together before the get-together.

It would be the third such summit since the Koreas' 1945 division. Kim Jong Il met liberal South Korean presidents in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007. They resulted in a series of cooperative projects that were scuttled during subsequent conservative administrations in South Korea.