A man accused of instigating the deadly beating of another man on Pine Ridge in 2015 was convicted Friday of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, as well as conspiracy to commit assault.
Calmer Cottier, 25, is facing up to life in federal prison for the killing of Ferris Brings Plenty, 30, an assault that prosecutors said was connected to gang rivalries on the reservation. He was acquitted of solicitation to commit a crime of violence.
Five of Cottier's co-defendants have pleaded guilty and been sentenced, including three men for second-degree murder.
In statements submitted to the court, the three men said Cottier incited the group to go to the home of Brings Plenty’s mother in July 2015 to fight a man with whom Cottier had earlier exchanged “derogatory gang words.”
The group did not find the man they sought, but stumbled on Brings Plenty sleeping in a tent in the backyard. Cottier, the men said, initiated the attack by throwing a cinder block at Brings Plenty when he came out of the tent.
The others also assaulted Brings Plenty by kicking him in the head and face once he fell to the ground, hitting him with a bat, beating him with a stick in the head and torso, and striking him with a machete in the back of the head.
Authorities said he died from head injuries, including a skull fracture and brain hemorrhage.
If Cottier had not assaulted Brings Plenty, the victim might still be alive today, Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Poppen said during closing arguments Friday morning.
The jury announced the verdict around 4 p.m. Friday, five hours after Chief Judge Jeffrey Viken handed the case for deliberation.
The victim's mother, Jerilyn Quiver, told the Journal she was “relieved” to hear of the guilty verdict, which came on the fifth day of trial.
Quiver, however, said she will never get closure because of the way her son was killed.
“It repeats in my head every day,” she said. “It feels like it was just yesterday.”
Cottier admitted only to hitting the victim on the back, claiming self-defense when Brings Plenty allegedly took a fighting stance against him.
His lawyer Nate Nelson said Cottier never took part in the assault plot, hatched in the backyard of a relative, where Cottier was hanging out. Cottier only accompanied the group to watch the impending fight, Nelson said.
“He just wanted to watch a fight,” the defense attorney said in his closing argument, “what he has done all his life, what everyone in Pine Ridge does.”
The real instigators were the men already convicted of murder, Nelson said. Cottier was made a scapegoat because he was an outsider, a former Pine Ridge man who moved to Rapid City and made a better life that evoked jealousy, the lawyer said.
Cottier is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 21. He is detained at the Pennington County Jail.
The case against a female co-defendant, Josann Winters, charged with making a false statement, is still pending, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.