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State Sen. Cammack's court records from Jan. 2020 arrest sealed after details posted on blog

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Gary Cammack

The court records related to a criminal case involving state Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, have been sealed and will likely remain so until they are expunged from his criminal record entirely so long as the senate majority leader violates no laws through Dec. 29.

But a court document detailing Cammack's charges following his arrest on Jan. 18, 2020, were made public on a political blog on Oct. 5 by Corey Heidelberger before being sealed by the court. He first saw the document on Oct. 4.

Heidelberger told the Rapid City Journal on Wednesday that he was just checking court records when he came upon Cammack's case and wrote about the charges on his blog, Dakota Free Press. He said he didn't know the case was sealed until a few days later when another media outlet contacted him about the document.

According to the court document, Cammack was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and speeding in Meade County on Jan. 18, 2020.

The charges were filed in Meade County on Jan. 21, 2020, with Pennington County Deputy State's Attorney Alexandra Weiss prosecuting the case.

Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo explained that generally another state's attorney will take over prosecuting a case in another county if their state's attorney appears to have a conflict of interest in a case.

Cammack plead not guilty to the DUI charge, a class one misdemeanor, on Feb. 4, 2020.

The DUI charge was dismissed over a year later on June 29 with a reduced charge of careless driving filed instead.

Cammack pleaded guilty to the careless driving and speeding charges, both class two misdemeanors. He received a suspended imposition of sentence and upon the filing of the dismissal of charges and completion of sentencing conditions, which may have included completion of a diversion program. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $431.50 for the careless driving charge and $39 fine for the speeding ticket, in addition to $222 in court costs.

Vargo spoke generally about a suspended imposition of a sentence for a misdemeanor charge, saying that a person who successfully completes a diversion program can have the case dismissed a year following the completion of the dismissal, then have the case sealed and expunged from their criminal record.

A court case may be sealed if the court is concerned that case records may lead to excessive pretrial publicity and jeopardize fairness for both the defendant and prosecution. Vargo said case files are frequently sealed in cases involving child victims or victims of a sexual offense.

According to the 1993 South Dakota Supreme Court decision, State v. Schempp, the purpose of suspended imposition of sentence is "to allow a first-time offender to rehabilitate himself without the trauma of imprisonment or the stigma of conviction record."

State law also allows the court to enter an order of expungement, which is defined to mean sealing and not destruction, if the court is satisfied that the ends of justice and the best interest of the public as well as the defendant or the arrested person will be served by the entry of the order.

Cammack did not respond to calls requesting comment on the matter as of Wednesday afternoon.

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