The lobbyist who was banned from the South Dakota House floor earlier this month can once again conduct business there after a federal judge granted her a temporary restraining order on Friday afternoon.
Yvonne Taylor, executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League, alleged in a lawsuit that Speaker Steve Haugaard barred her from the House floor during a private meeting at the Capitol on Jan. 14 after she wrote a magazine column saying the number of "wackies" in the Legislature was increasing.
U.S. District Court Judge Roberto Lange issued the temporary restraining order enjoining Haugaard from "debarring, banishing or restricting," Taylor from the house floor.
Lange's opinion also said both sides are working toward a settlement but he granted to the temporary order to "avert immediate or irreparable injury" to Taylor while those discussions occur. The temporary restraining order lasts for at least two weeks from the time of the order.
"The public interest disfavors elected officials retaliating against journalists or columnists who write articles encouraging people to vote and criticizing close minded legislators," Lange wrote. "The Court hopes that Haugaard was not doing that and had some other thought in mind."
The South Dakota Municipal League is a nonprofit organized to represent the state's incorporated municipalities. Taylor has lobbied on behalf of the organization since 1997 and writes a column for the monthly newsletter sent out to the group's members.
In May, Taylor's column urged members to register to vote in the June election. Her column drew a distinction between legislators who are "normal" and "the wackies." Taylor said the "normal" legislators are "willing to look at issues one by one, listen to facts, and make rational decisions," while the "wackies" are "opposed to government in general and all forms of taxation." She also said the "wackies" think "facts they don't like are lies."
Taylor alleges in a lawsuit that Haugaard said her column made the Legislature look like "a bunch of buffoons." She accuses him of unlawful retaliation and violating her free-speech rights. The lawsuit contends that banning Taylor from the floor prevented her from being able to adequately represent her group's members.
"One important aspect of lobbying is circulating bill sponsor sheets and explaining to legislators the bill they are being asked to sponsor," the lawsuit states. "Legislators sign the bill sponsor sheet in order to become a sponsor of a bill. This activity occurs almost exclusively on the floors of the House and Senate."
The House floor is typically open to lobbyists, journalists and members of the public.
Taylor's attorney, David Lust, declined to comment on the case at this time.
The Journal left a message for Haugaard but he did not reply.
Rick Vee knows his way around a cribbage board so well that he recently earned the rank of Cribbage Master — the first and only in western South Dakota.
For Vee, it's an achievement of a lifetime.
"(Cribbage Master) was my goal before I died, and I’m going to be 70 (this year)," he said. "I never thought I would get it."
Cribbage is a card game typically played with two, three or four players. The object of the game is to make counting combinations that are scored on a cribbage board. Vee learned cribbage while in Vietnam, where he served two tours of duty. The game has been a favorite pastime ever since.
"To be good at the game is 75 percent luck and 25 percent skill," Vee said. "One or two games can mean getting in the playoffs or not."
Vee has been steadily working toward his Cribbage Master goal since 2005. He's a member of the local Grass Roots chapter of the American Cribbage Congress; membership is a requirement to become a Cribbage Master. Players compete in sanctioned tournaments nationwide to win money and Master Rating Points. A player must earn 2,000 Master Rating Points to earn the rank of Cribbage Master, Vee said.
Vee said cribbage tournaments take place every weekend throughout the United States. Vee, who lives near Hermosa, prefers playing in tournaments in the West and Midwest. He earned his Cribbage Master rank when he won a tournament in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
He's also a regular at the invitation-only Tournament of Champions in Reno, Nevada, which is open to several hundred players from the United States and Europe, Vee said.
"You have to be in the top 50 or be a club champion to get an invite, or get 1,000 Grass Roots points," Vee said. "I've had an invite every year, which is pretty crazy and pretty lucky. There's some good players here in Rapid City and there's some tough competition here. ... I think the guys in Rapid are harder to beat than the guys in Reno."
More than a game, cribbage has become a Vee family tradition. Vee played with his brother and sister, and he taught his children to play.
"My youngest son knew how to play cribbage and could count his hands (of cards) when he was 5 years old," Vee said. Now, his youngest son is a member of the American Cribbage Congress and accompanies Vee to the Tournament of Champions in Reno.
Part of the cribbage's appeal is that it's a game people of all ages can play and win. Vee's children taught their children the game, and now Vee plays with his grandchildren, ages 9 to 23.
"Last time I played with (two of my) grandkids, they both beat me, and they were pretty happy," Vee said, chuckling.
When Vee and his wife operated Ghost Ranch Bed and Breakfast, Vee taught guests — sometimes even entire families — to play. He's given away about 30 cribbage boards to those who got hooked on the game.
Vee still encourages people to give cribbage a try.
"It's just a good game," he said. "I’m still learning, and I’ve been playing for 50 years."
Anyone who wants to learn about cribbage can visit the Post 22 American Legion, 818 E. St. Patrick St. Cribbage starts at 7 p.m. on Mondays and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays. The local chapter has 24 members ranging in age from 25 to 90, and new people are welcome.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Teri Leuning tried methamphetamine for the first time, but she remembers every detail like it was yesterday.
“I was a sophomore in high school, and I felt fearless after I tried it for the first time,” Leuning said. “It was easier to get than beer, and I fell in love with it right away.”
While she’s been sober for six years now, the cravings and dark memories of her meth addiction don’t go away. But the 35-year-old mother of two has found that sharing the story of her past meth addiction has not only helped others overcome their meth use, but it also eased her own road to recovery as well.
Leuning is the chairwoman of Mitchell’s Narcotics Anonymous, where she’s been leading groups once a week for the past six years for people that have experienced past narcotic use and are seeking help.
“It’s almost hard to put into words how impacting NA meetings are because you can go there craving meth with like-minded people, and you leave feeling better knowing that you’re not alone in this struggle,” she said.
Leuning is far from alone in becoming addicted to methamphetamine. The ongoing meth abuse has reached epidemic levels in the state of South Dakota, which prompted Gov. Kristi Noem to allocate $4.6 million for anti-methamphetamine efforts Wednesday in her first budget address at the state Capitol in Pierre.
In 2017, former Attorney General Marty Jackley launched a methamphetamine-awareness campaign called “NO.METH.EVER,” which featured commercials that were scripted with actors explaining the dangers of the addictive drug. But a year ago, a plea to make the commercials more authentic led to the state seeking former meth addicts to replace the actors, and Leuning volunteered to assist in those efforts.
“Through sharing my story, I have helped people addicted to meth start their recovery,”said Leuning, who was featured in a March 2018 NO.METH.EVER commercial.
Upon graduating in 2001 from Mitchell High School, Leuning was hooked on meth right before she moved to Lenexa, Kansas. Though she moved to another state, her meth addiction followed, and she began using heavily during the years she lived in Kansas working as a waitress.
“That’s when it got really bad,” Leuning said.
It was then Leuning said she knew her meth addiction was spiraling out of control, which prompted her to move back home and live with her father, Jeff Leuning, who watched his daughter ache and battle cold sweats for a week during her first detox.
After going through the horrors of detox in front of her dad, Leuning was seemingly on her way to sobriety for good. But 10 years later, she relapsed.
Unable to control the craving, Leuning fell back into her old ways as an addict. Only this time, she was tasked with managing the duties of being a mother of her two children, Oakley, 12, and Lennon, 7.
“I was using and selling meth for the next 11 months straight, every day,” Leuning said.
Plagued with a second round of addiction, Leuning’s boyfriend, who asked to remain anonymous, began to notice warning signs that she was using again.
In desperation to help his girlfriend overcome her ongoing addiction, Leuning’s boyfriend had to force a strung-out Leuning into her parents’ van, which took her to rehab.
“I wanted to quit, and I knew should have, but I just couldn’t. It controlled me,” she said. “My boyfriend literally had to drag me in the van to go to rehab.”
Having spent a little over a month in a rehab facility in Aberdeen, Leuning was ready to face life and her meth addiction on the other side of treatment walls. It was then that she stumbled upon a career as massage therapist that she credits as a catalyst in overcoming addiction.
“That was the only time my brain would just shut off and be in the moment, because it was so therapeutic for me,” said Leuning. “I’ll be six years sober in May, and the struggle is real and will always be there, but so will the fight in me.”
The federal government has rejected accusations of negligence and excessive force made in a lawsuit by the mother of a Kyle man who was fatally shot in 2016 by an officer at the Pine Ridge hospital.
The death of 28-year-old Jamie Brave Heart was caused by his own negligence and actions, not the government's, Ronald Parsons, U.S. attorney in South Dakota, wrote in a Jan. 10 response.
Brave Heart was brought to the Pine Ridge hospital on June 3, 2016, by a police officer with the Oglala Sioux Tribe after his mother reported he was acting strangely, a tribal spokesman said after the shooting. After trying to leave the hospital, Brave Heart stabbed and cut the officer, and the officer responded by shooting him, the spokesman said.
Terry Pechota, the lawyer representing Brave Heart's mother, said he would not comment on the lawsuit or incident. The U.S. Attorney's Office can't comment due to the partial government shutdown.
In a July 2018 complaint, Brave Heart asked for $2 million for the "pain and suffering" caused by her son's wrongful death.
In the complaint, Brave Heart said her son was taken to the hospital for an evaluation and was shot "numerous times" by officer Charles Hunter in or near the emergency department. She said the U.S. government was negligent because, among other reasons, Hunter failed to disarm Brave Heart before taking him into custody, overreacted to the perceived threat, and used deadly force when other alternatives were available. Parsons rejected those claims.
Brave Heart's lawsuit does not mention her son stabbing or taking any other action that might have caused Hunter to shoot. She said she sued in federal court because the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety is contracted with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a federal agency.
Deadlines for the lawsuit have been on hold due to the partial government shutdown.