Trooper Zachary Bader


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A circuit judge denied a motion to throw out statements made to authorities by a man charged with assaulting a South Dakota highway trooper. 

The motion said the statements by Donald Willingham, 34, of Renton, Wash., were obtained illegally. 

Willingham is charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer in the beating of Trooper Zachary Bader along Interstate 90 in Pennington County in October 2015.

Willingham also faces drug and firearm charges in the incident, which unfolded after Bader stopped a vehicle carrying Willingham and three companions.

In his decision, written Nov. 28, 7th Circuit Judge Wally Eklund denied Willingham’s motion to suppress the statements he made to law enforcement after his arrest.

Eklund, in a 12-page document, responded to the defense’s assertions in three points:

First, the Miranda warnings issued by investigators before Willingham’s interrogations were adequate. The warnings include informing a suspect of his right to remain silent and that anything he says can be used against him in court.

Second, investigators "scrupulously honored" Willingham’s right to cut off questioning, and his second interrogation was valid, the judge wrote.

Third, the statements Willingham made during his jail booking were not improperly obtained with promises of leniency. In addition, the questions were not trying to elicit any incriminating information.

Defense attorney Dennis Doherty filed a motion in April to suppress the statements, saying they were obtained in violation of Willingham's constitutional rights.

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Willingham is due back in court Dec. 19, the same time as his three former co-defendants, who were also in the vehicle that Bader stopped. Eklund granted Willingham’s request to have his trial separated from the others' because they have made incriminating statements against him.

The three have pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and being an accessory to a crime, two of their four charges, in a deal that includes testifying against Willingham, said the state's attorney.

Meanwhile, Willingham faces a new charge of simple assault against a fellow inmate at the Pennington County Jail.

According to a sheriff’s deputy report filed in court, Willingham sprayed a chemical disinfectant into the vent of another cell Aug. 6, and the chemical hit another inmate in the eye.

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Cops and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Rapid City Journal