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Brother argues he had little role in kidnapping, assaults of Rapid City woman
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Brother argues he had little role in kidnapping, assaults of Rapid City woman

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Federal Courthouse

The Federal Courthouse in Rapid City.

The brother of a man accused of kidnapping, physically abusing and sexually assaulting a Rapid City woman for nine days in South Dakota and Nebraska is arguing he had little role in the incident and that evidence was unfairly taken from his home. 

Dustin Sierra's "only involvement in anything that occurred to the victim was to give her and his brother a ride from Rapid City to Oglala," defense lawyer Terry Pechota wrote in a motion to suppress the items taken from Dustin's home. 

Federal prosecutors and a grand jury disagree about Dustin's involvement. They charged both Dustin, 35, and Jesse Sierra, 34, with kidnapping, two counts of aggravated sexual abuse by force, interstate domestic violence, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and assaulting a dating partner by strangling near Oglala and other places on the Pine Ridge Reservation between July 13-21, 2019, according to their indictment.

Jesse, who used to date victim Esther Wolfe, was also charged with kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse by force, interstate domestic violence, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and assaulting a dating partner by strangling in the same areas between Aug. 28-29, 2018. And he's facing charges in Nebraska state court of physically and sexually assaulting Wolfe. 

The pair allegedly kidnapped Wolfe from Rapid City on July 13 and brought her to various locations on the Pine Ridge Reservation and in northwest Nebraska, according to an FBI affidavit in support of their arrest. Along the way, Jesse beat, raped and emotionally abused Wolfe, tied her up with Christmas lights, made her go inside a shallow grave and forced her to call police to say she was OK. Wolfe was found July 21 with "severe bruising" at a hospital in Chadron, Nebraska. 

Pechota wrote in his motion that the items taken from Dustin's home in Oglala shouldn't be allowed as evidence because among other reasons the affidavit for the search warrant has false information and there was no probable cause for the search since Dustin only gave Esther a ride. 

The affidavit for the search warrant is sealed but two pages are attached to an affidavit signed by Dustin. The search and arrest warrant affidavits both say Dustin drove Jesse and Esther from Rapid City to Dustin's home in Oglala while Esther tried to escape the car as Jesse repeatedly strangled her. The documents also say Dustin never helped Esther when she was being assaulted and that both brothers "tested" her by pretending police were outside Dustin's home. 

But Dustin wrote in his affidavit that Esther never asked for help and that he never tested her. 

Neither affidavit makes any mention of Dustin being involved in the abuse and Molina Clifford, an agent with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, testified Wednesday at the federal court in Rapid City that Esther never accused Dustin of hurting or threatening her. But Clifford said Esther told her during a July 22 interview that Dustin "tested" her and that she asked him for help. Clifford said Esther didn't specifically explain what kind of help she asked for. 

Dustin, who is tall and thin like his brother but wears glasses and his long hair in a braid, occasionally shook his head as Clifford testified. 

His and Jesse's charges all include language about aiding and abetting, so it's possible the government is accusing Dustin of playing a role — but not being the main perpetrator — in the kidnapping, physical abuse and sexual assaults. But under 18 U.S. Code 2, anyone who aids and abets a crime can still be punished the same as the person who committed it. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Sazama wrote in a document that even if Dustin never tested Esther and Esther never asked him for help, there was still "ample probable cause" in the affidavit to search Dustin's home. She said the affidavit explains that Esther told investigators that Jesse physically and sexually assaulted her on a bed at Dustin's home to the point where she lost control of her bladder. Therefore, DNA might be found on the bed.

Clifford told Sazama that investigators seized a mattress pad, towel, pillow and other items from the bed. She also told Pechota that Dustin had previously voluntarily let BIA and Oglala Sioux tribal officers look through his home while Esther was still missing.

After the short hearing, Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann said she would file a written decision about Dustin's motion to suppress.

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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