A federal jury deliberated more than nine hours before finding a Rosebud man guilty of sexually abusing two children.

Joseph E. Espinosa, also known as Joseph E. Espinoza, 61, was convicted after a jury trial in Pierre of one count of abusive sexual contact and one count of aggravated sexual abuse. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on a third count of aggravated sexual abuse.

According to federal court documents, Espinosa was convicted of using force to have sex with a person between 12 and 16 years old between Nov. 24, 2006, and Feb. 26, 2007, in Todd County. He was also convicted of having sexual contact with a child younger than 12 between Aug. 1, 2002, and Sept. 28, 2003, in Todd County.

Espinosa will spend at least 30 years in prison. That is the mandatory minimum sentence upon conviction of aggravated sexual abuse, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The sexual contact charge is punishable by 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

No sentencing date was set.

In other federal court news:

* Michael Two Elk, 24, Oglala, pleaded guilty to sexual abuse, admitting that he engaged in a sexual act with a 16-year-old girl who was "incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct," according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. The incident happened last August at Oglala. Two Elk will serve at least five years in prison. The maximum penalty is life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Two Elk remains in custody pending sentencing Aug. 6.

* Samuel White Horse, 19, Cherry Creek, pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon. According to federal court documents, the charge involved a knife assault on a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Police officer Jan. 1 in Cherry Creek. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. White Horse remains in custody pending sentencing.

* Joe Warren Sierra Sr., 32, Manderson, pleaded guilty to assault on a federal officer. According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Sierra assaulted an Oglala Sioux Tribal Police officer with a bat while the officer was attempting to arrest him April 27, 2007, near Manderson. The maximum penalty is eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sierra was detained pending sentencing Aug. 5.

* Aaron Young, 24, Rapid City, pleaded guilty to escape, admitting that he failed to return to Community Alternatives of the Black Hills after a temporary furlough to Wal-Mart on Jan. 18. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He will be sentenced Aug. 5.

* Howard D. Killeaney, 26, Rosebud, pleaded guilty to assault resulting in substantial bodily injury. Federal court documents show the charge involved the assault of a 5-year-old child in February and March 2007. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Killeaney was detained pending sentencing.

* Benjamin Joseph Loafer, 48, Kyle, pleaded guilty to two counts of abusive sexual contact. He admitted to having sexual contact twice with a person who was asleep and incapable of communicating her willingness to participate. The maximum penalty is three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Loafer was detained pending sentencing July 14.

* Rolland W. Collins Jr., 26, Eagle Butte, pleaded not guilty to charges of being a drug user in possession of a firearm and distribution of a controlled substance. According to federal court documents, Collins is accused of illegally possessing a pistol Jan. 23 in Dewey County and of distributing marijuana in Dewey County between Sept. 1, 2006, and Jan. 23, 2008. The firearm charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine upon conviction. The distribution charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Collins was detained pending trial.

Editor's note: The U.S. District Court generally prosecutes felonies committed on reservations, and tribal courts handle misdemeanor crimes. Felonies that happen off the reservation are prosecuted in state/circuit court and are reported separately in the Rapid City Journal. Some drug and firearms cases are also prosecuted in federal court.

Contact Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419 or heidi.bell@rapidcityjournal.com

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