A spokeswoman for a man who claims the letters "KKK" were carved into his abdomen during surgery in Rapid City said South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley misled the public by saying an investigation found no wrongdoing.

A news release Monday from Jackley's office outlining the results of an investigation by the state Division of Criminal Investigation implies that the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services also concluded their investigations into 69-year-old Vernon Traversie's claims, when in fact those investigations remain open, Traversie's spokeswoman, Kara Briggs, said in a news release.

"There are two federal investigations ongoing, and neither has ruled out that a hate crime was committed," Briggs said. "Vern is just interested in accuracy."

The news release said that "The South Dakota Attorney General's Office" had concluded its investigation of Traversie's claims.

Traversie is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in north-central South Dakota and is legally blind. He claims the letters KKK were carved into his abdomen while hospitalized last year for heart surgery at Rapid City Regional Hospital.

The news release from Jackley's office outlined a timeline of several investigations and continued by saying "according to the investigations, the scars on Mr. Traversie are a side effect of the surgery performed on him."

The use of the phrase "according to the investigations" implies that all authorities investigating Traversie's case — federal, state, county, city and tribal — have come to the same conclusion, Briggs wrote in an e-mail.

Jackley said, however, that he only spoke for his office.

"I don't speak for the U.S. Attorney. I don't speak for (Rapid City Police Chief) Allender. I don't speak for the (Cheyenne River Sioux) tribe," he said.

Jackley's office sent a copy of the news release to Gabe Galanda, Traversie's attorney, before it was issued, Briggs said. Jackley said Galanda made several suggestions to change the news release and that he incorporated some but not all of the changes.

"They probably don't agree with our findings, but they've certainly been given any opportunity to provide us with evidence," he said.

The FBI is currently investigating Traversie's claim under supervision of the South Dakota U.S. Attorney's office, said Ace Crawford, spokeswoman for that office. 

The DCI conducted several interviews jointly with FBI staff, though the two organizations have independent investigations, Jackley said.

In a step toward a first court appearance, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken issued an order Wednesday to Traversie and the defendants in his lawsuit requiring the parties to meet and discuss their claims and "the possibility of a prompt settlement or resolution" by Sept. 7.

Contact Ruth Moon at 394-8415 or ruth.moon@rapidcityjournal.com

(38) comments

humpty dumpty

those might be marks from his mansierre or bro.


I see one "K", an upside down "i" (or a "!" depending on your perspective), a sideways "i" and another "k" which actually looks more like an upside down and reversed "R".

Using a word unscrambler I found no possible matches for letters "kiik" but found one term for the letters "kiir".

"Kiri'. Kiri can be found in the urban dictionary meaning "cool or amazing.

So the question is ... what is the hidden message???

Potatoes Browning

Diet and exercise Dude....


There's a lot of comments on here about what the doctors did to himself. The doctors seem to be fair game. But what about him? What about what HE did to himself? Who should be held responsible for that? Taxpayers, of course.


Too bad the spokeman or the attorney for the guy won't read these comments to him, since he is blind and assumably can't read them himself. If they would read them for him, or were actually trying to be honest with him, he could learn for himself how frivoulous THEIR lawsuit is.


I guess that is why they call it an ungoing investigation. But that is just me of course. I seem to remember back in my memory cells about another group that diagnoised a patient through the lens of a camera, including a United States Senator by the name of Bill Frist. I think that he looked at a picture and said that as a doctor, he could see that all was not what was being said about Mrs. Schiavo. Of course, the good doctor was wrong and cost taxpayers a bundle for Congress to go back to Washington to debate the thing. So lets be patient (pun intended) and wait until all has been investigated and then we shall know, or is that too much to ask?


i think whatever happened probably happened after surgery. this kkk organization has shown itself in this community by planting recruitment info at local stores this past year. maybe they have someone working at the hospital, such as the personnel who first encouraged Mr. Traversie to reach out for help. is this something this group is known for, branding their racist hatred on an innocent people.


Oh, PAAaaaalease. What a line of BS. I can't believe the Journal would even post this lie. There have not been any KKK recruitment info planted in any stores. The KKK doesn't function that way. Come on Journal, this is ridiculous to post this reply.

JD Anoniem
JD Anoniem

I'm guessing his attorney wouldn't find Jackley's comments to be "misleading" if they supported the efforts of his civil case...

Potatoes Browning

I think they should give him his money back that he paid to have this life saving procedure done.


lol, I'm ok with that, give him every penny he paid back.

Native Thoughts

lol what you mean pay the money back. He had life saving surgery and is probably home right now alive. Have to be thankful to the people that saved his life rather than try to sue people for saving his life. If they settle with this then they will have to settle with everyone else that had the same surgery. Need to get off that thought of compensation. Treaty rights say that the government will take care of their health, schooling, and food for every. Because there was no end date on the treaty. So i'm pretty sure he used our tribe and ihs to have this expensive procedure done. Come on Natives were is our pride, standing there with your hands out thinking your owed something. Like I said before everything in life is earned not given. Being able to walk this earth is a opportunity, not a right. And it looks to me this man gets chance at living a longer life and that should be more than worth any scar.


I only see two scars that MIGHT be considered Ks also. Whoever told this poor guy his scars were "KKK" should be ashamed.


This needs to hurry up and be done with all people do is point fingers and call names I'm pretty sure none of us are in grade school and more IF it happened find the persons responsible for it IF it didn't punish the persons who told him what was "carved" in to him

Black Hawk
Black Hawk

Racial hatred goes both ways, in Western South Dakota. The sooner we realize that the better. There are some in each culture who will never accept the other. After living here all my life that is reality.

kevin j

After my heart surgery in Sioux Falls I had numerous scabs, scars and abrasions. I guess I should have said they looked like AIM was written on chest. How ridiculous.


give this man his money


That is really what this is all about. Not Racism. It is about making a buck.

Native Thoughts

I'm native american and would have to side with everyone else. When they say the man is being mislead. If you look on line on heart surgery pictures of the aftermath of that type of surgery. Very common to have scarring of that nature. Due to the surgical tape used to hold the drain tubes coming from his heart. Crazy how our people are quick to pull the race card when there are many natives on our reservation that are just has racist as the people they are pointing their fingers at. Leave it to natives to want something given to them, rather then earning it themselves. In our culture respect was as good as money and I'll tell you right now respect was earned not given.


this is terrible he deserves respect... put yourself in this mans situation, he is blind had no clue what was going on!! i believe he is being more than honest. think about it if it was just "surgical tape" then why would a nurse tell him to have someone take pictures of himself?. there had to have been more than a profession procedure going on that day.. i just dont understand what would make someone so hateful against him..

Black Hawk
Black Hawk

I have been in the OR during open heart surgery and there are a dozen people there. Professional people who are looking over the patient. To suggest that someone could nuge the doctor and suggest mutilating his body is beyond reality. If the patient was of another race we would never have seen it in the news.


Would someone please tell me who this nurse you refered to is. Was he/she his regular nurse or just someone who said they where a nurse.


Nobody that files frivolous lawsuits deserves respect. Just the opposite is true.


Really???? My mother had 6 by-pass and her scars are numerous and large as well as scars from veins stipped in her legs. I do not think any surgeon or assistants sit around thinking of things to carve in people. They were very considerate of my mother and even gave her suggestions so the scarring would heal with as minimal visual issues. Did he take care of his scars? Did he pick? I do not see 3 'K's' no matter where I look. It looks like he has had other surgeries previously. Maybe he needs to take better care of himself.


It would be interesting to see a current photo, to see how much of the "hate-crime" scarring has gone away; indicating that the marks were from surgical tape, which are especially visible due to the sensitivity of Mr. Traversie's skin.


This ridiculous saga continues. The allegiations are bizarre. The man is being made to look like a fool by those around him. Those behind this claim should be held accountable. I'm angry about this, but not as angry as I am at the thought of RCRH giving in and making a settlement offer. Any progress in race relations in Rapid City is going down the drain because of this.


Those are just scars from the drains they put in him. My husband had the same thing after his heart surgery.


Even the judge sees some ridiculousness in this case, trying to somehow make these parties come to some sort of agreement outside of court instead of tying up even more time and money. Mr Traversie is certainly a victim here, but I don't believe he's a victim at the hands of Regional Hospital. He appears a victim of those attempting to cash in on a false story. Mr Traversie is trusting those who "claim" to be by his side and is unable to see for himself what those "friends" are doing to him. Prayers of strength for this man. He seems to be an upstanding individual with nothing but utter love and thoughtfulness in his heart. Mr Traversie isn't out do anyone harm; I admire him.


WOW finally a comment that isnt against him I completley respect that.. and agree fully with what you had to say :)


Unreal. The man should be happy he's given a second chance in life instead of trying to sue the hospital over for something he can't even see - which isn't even there. Sounds like the man's family(eyes) are taking advantage of his misfortune for their own well being.


I see 2 K's but reguardless they really mutalated this man, He deserves some kind of compensation,


The drs. "mutalated" (sic) this man to save his life...since when do people think they need to be compensated for every little thing that happens to them. Typical "society owes me because I'm Indian" mentality. Really, isn't it time people quit complaining about what ancestors did and pull their boots up by their bootstraps? Countless programs have been developed, using taxpayers money, to help natives do just that.


They did compensate him, they saved his life.

My 2 cents worth



If the hospital settles with these people then that would indicate guilt. If they settle then I will take any major surgeries I have to another hospital. This hospital should counter sue if they are innocent.


Nonsense. He was not mutilated. He was given another chance at life. Have you never seen surgical scars and tape wounds before. Good grief.


If those scars are supposed to say KKK, why isnt it all smooshed together, rather than having the 3 "letters" separated by several inches? This is a whole bunch of hype about nothing, some is looking to read racism where there is none.


Where are the alleged K's? I see two scars that could be misinterpreted as K's, but I don't see anything else.

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