A Pine Ridge man pleaded not guilty Thursday to involuntary manslaughter after he was accused of suffocating a baby by rolling onto the 8-month-old when they were sleeping together and while he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
John Jealous of Him Sr., 42, appeared calm as he entered his pleas to the manslaughter charge and a state felony child abuse charge at the federal court in Rapid City.
The federal government has jurisdiction over felony child abuse crimes on Native American reservations, and since there's no federal child abuse law, the government instead charges such crimes according to state law.
The manslaughter and child abuse charges relate to the same victim, Ace Crawford, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Dakota, told the Journal.
If found guilty, Jealous of Him faces up to eight years in prison for the manslaughter charge and 15 years for the child abuse charge, Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann said in court.
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Jealous of Him is accused of abusing a child between Aug. 3-4 near Pine Ridge by subjecting the child to an environment that lacked proper parental care that resulted in serious bodily injury, according to his indictment. During that same time period, he's also accused of drinking alcohol and taking prescription medicine "to excess" before sleeping with, rolling over and fatally suffocating the child.
The indictment doesn't explain the relationship between Jealous of Him and the victim.
Prosecutor Megan Poppen did not ask for Jealous of Him to be detained before trial so Wollmann ordered him released from the Pennington County Jail without bond, but said he can't have any unsupervised contact with people under the age of 18.
More than a dozen adults and children filled the courtroom Thursday morning, but it was unclear how many where there for Jealous of Him, the victim or those involved in another defendant's case. Two people said they didn't want to speak with the media when asked if they were related to Jealous of Him's victim.