A teenager accused of murder who has been incarcerated since August 2018 will likely remain in jail after a judge set his bond at $500,000 cash-only.
Ronald Black Cloud, wearing a navy blue scrub-like outfit with his hands cuffed in front of him, made his first appearance in adult court on Wednesday morning at the Pennington County Courthouse.
Black Cloud was 14 when he was charged with second-degree murder in juvenile court for the Aug. 17, 2018, fatal shooting of 43-year-old Nathan Graham. Graham, a father who owned a construction company and planned to hire troubled teens and adults with felonies, died the next day.
Prosecutors argued during a closed-door transfer hearing in December that Black Cloud, now 17, should be tried in adult court. Judge Matt Brown agreed.
Ross Johnson, now 19, was 17 when he was charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder as well as aggravated assault in the case. State law says minors who are 16 or older are automatically charged as adults when facing serious felony charges.
Johnson originally planned to request a transfer to juvenile court but later decided to stay in adult court. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault last week in exchange for testifying against Black Cloud if the younger teen takes his case to trial.
Prosecutor Angela Shute requested the $500,000 cash-only bond and a no contact order for Graham’s wife and stepson.
She said Black Cloud and Johnson had been shooting a handgun earlier in the day before going to Graham’s house to ask if his son wanted to spend time with them.
Shayla Colbert-Graham, Graham’s widow, previously told the Journal that Johnson was friends with their son but he wasn’t allowed to visit their house since they once caught him trying to break into the home with alcohol.
Colbert-Graham said she opened the door that day to find Johnson and Black Cloud, who she did not recognize. She said Johnson asked to see her son and she responded that he knows he's not allowed at the house. Graham then came to the door to back her up.
Graham told the teens that they weren’t welcome at his house and a fight broke out between him and Johnson, Shute said. Johnson tossed the gun to Black Cloud who fired it twice as Graham was returning to his house. One of the shots hit Graham in the back of the head.
Johnson had told Black Cloud to shoot the gun, prosecutor Lara Roetzel previously told the Journal. Black Cloud fired once the fight was already over so there was no need to defend himself or Johnson, she said.
An affidavit says Black Cloud told police that Johnson told him to fire the gun and a relative of Johnson said Johnson told them the same thing. Johnson told Graham when he arrived that he had a gun and would shoot everyone, the document also says.
Shute said her bond request was needed due to the serious nature of the offense. She did not comment on whether Black Cloud was a flight risk or danger to others.
Defense lawyer Joanna Lawler requested a “reasonable” bond but not a specific amount.
She said Black Cloud turned himself in to police, has already been detained for a long time, and is not a flight risk since he has supportive family members, some of whom attended the court hearing.
Magistrate Judge Todd Hyronimus agreed with the requests for the $500,000 cash-only bond and no contact orders.
A relative blew Black Cloud a kiss before deputies walked him away.
Black Cloud will continue to be detained at the juvenile jail until he is 18. Johnson, who is detained at the adult jail, could be sentenced up to 15 years in prison during his hearing on April 29.
If Black Cloud or Johnson had been convicted in juvenile court, the judge could have sentenced them to prison up until they were 21.
Adults convicted of second-degree murder face an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole. Minors charged in adult court must have the chance of parole but can be sentenced to any number of years, even as long as 261 years, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled.
— Contact Arielle Zionts at email@example.com.