Prosecutors and spectators hugged and cried as the jury announced it found a former Indian Health Service pediatrician guilty on all eight counts of child sexual abuse Friday afternoon.
Stanley Patrick Weber had no reaction as the jury read its verdict, just like he had no reaction as he listened to his victims describe the physical and lifelong emotional pain of his abuse.
Weber "was a walking, talking nightmare for the Pine Ridge Reservation," Ron Parsons, U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, said at the federal courthouse in Rapid City. "This defendant is the worst kind of predator there is: someone who's placed in a position of trust — a pediatrician for God's sake — who abuses that position of trust to rape and sexually assault the children who've been entrusted to his care."
Weber, 70, was convicted of five counts of aggravated sexual abuse and three counts of sexual abuse of a minor that he committed against four Native American boys, some as young as nine, in Pine Ridge between 1995 and 2011. Aggravated sexual abuse has a minimum punishment of 30 years in prison and maximum punishment of life. Sexual abuse of a minor can be punished by up to 15 years in prison.
Parsons said the victims were brave and courageous to testify and that he hopes the verdict brings them some measure of peace and justice. He also praised the work of prosecutors Sarah Collins and Eric Kelderman and federal investigators Curt Muller and Fred Bennett.
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It's now up to all of us to make sure "something like this can never happen again to any of our young children in any of our communities," Parsons said.
Accusations about Weber sexually abusing boys circulated among his co-workers, patients and the wider community when he worked at the Pine Ridge and Browning, Montana IHS, according to a Wall Street Journal/Frontline investigation. But some complaints were ignored and not investigated, while others resulted in investigations that cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Parsons said he can't comment on whether there will be charges against anyone who failed to report or covered up the abuse, but he pointed to federal investigations that are looking into the case to prevent such abuse from happening again at the IHS. He also said he couldn't speak about two new charges Weber is facing.
Harvey Steinberg, Weber's lead defense lawyer, could not be immediately reached after the verdict.
"While this was a long-awaited victory, we know that it will not completely heal the wounds inflicted on Dr. Weber’s victims," Michael Weahkee, head of the IHS, said in an email.
Weahkee said the IHS is working to strengthen protection for patients and that all employees have a role to play in preventing sex abuse. He also said the agency will will provide counseling services services — even if they aren't at an IHS facility or with an IHS provider — for Weber's victims. Victims can request this service by calling the IHS anonymous hotline at 301-443-0658.
Weber will be incarcerated at the Pennington County jail as he awaits sentencing, which Judge Jeffrey Viken said will happen in a few months. He's already serving an 18-year prison sentence after a Montana jury convicted him of four sexual abuse crimes against two boys on the Blackfeet Reservation, where he worked at the IHS in Browning from 1992-1995 before coming to Pine Ridge.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for four hours after listening to three days of testimony from the four official victims, two victims from Weber's Montana trial (one who testified in person and one who's previous trial testimony was read aloud) and a Pine Ridge man who said he was abused at age 16, the federal age of consent. They also heard from other witnesses including Muller, Bennett, and IHS staff who worked and lived next to Weber, who did not testify.
The jurors made their decision after closing arguments on Friday morning.
Weber "took the opportunity to do things behind closed doors when he was alone" with the victims, Kelderman said.
Kelderman projected a colorful timeline showing the jury when Weber was born and worked at various IHS locations, when the victims were born, and when the eight crimes took place. He then matched specific testimony to each corresponding criminal charge, pointing to the specific details the men remembered.
"You saw the pain, you saw the boys on that stand, you saw the raw emotion," he said in reference to the victims' testimonies. "It's still in them, it's still living inside them."
Steinberg told jurors not to be swayed by the fact that seven men came forward to say they were sexually abused because their role is to focus on the details of each separate charge.
He pointed to inconsistencies between what the victims said in court and what they told investigators and to testimony about incidents that he said were "impossible." He said one victim said he was abused in the old hospital which another witness said was closed at the time, while the Sioux Falls victim said Weber was able to take him shopping, out to dinner and abuse him two times in less than two hours.
He asked if the Sioux Falls victim — who once asked Weber to adopt him since he was the only person who cared about him — was able to watch Weber get beat up and then lie about it multiple times, "is it a stretch to say" he is also able to come up with a false allegation?
Steinberg also asked why investigators didn't attempt to corroborate victim statements by speaking to their friends and family members who were either told about the alleged abuse or witnessed the victims before and after it happened.
"Why did they decide not to do that? Were they afraid of the answer?" he asked, saying there was a "lack of investigation" and "rush to judgment" to convict his client.
Collins did not respond to that question. She admitted victims gave inconsistent statements on small details, but said they "were perfectly consistent" on the details of the actual abuse.
She said Weber "carefully selected his victims" and "carefully selected how to groom them" in a "perfect recipe for prolific sexual abuse for 18 years."
Once Weber was older, he chose a young, small and intellectually disabled victim, Weber said. And he chose victims who would return to him because they needed money and would feel too embarrassed to disclose the abuse.
Collins said the Sioux Falls victim has no agenda, that he cried while testifying about realizing that what Weber did to him was abuse. How do the men benefit or have an agenda from confiding embarrassing details before male investigators and a jury, she asked.
She said it took so long for the men to come forward because it was a case of a doctor vs. patients, an adult vs. children, a have vs. have-nots, and a powerful man vs. the weak.
Collins ended by projecting photographs of the victims when they were children growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Sioux Falls victim smiled in a water-damaged image while the Rapid City victim wore a plaid shirt in school photo. The Pine Ridge victim wore a Lakers basketball jersey and the Wounded Knee victim posed on his side in a photography studio.
The trial was attended by family members of the victims, community members from Rapid City and the Pine Ridge Reservation, local and national media, federal investigators who worked on the case, local lawyers, the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, and leadership from the IHS and Department of Health and Human Services.
— Contact Arielle Zionts at email@example.com.