Gettysburg, SD

Report from court on Monday

Bad decisions and reasonable doubt were some of the things discussed during Potter County court on Monday, May 19.
John Dethlefs and Wayne Fast Wolf, both of Rapid City, appeared in court on a status hearing. Both were indicted by the grand jury and face several felony drug related charges.
Fast Wolf appeared before the court with his attorney Brad Schreiber. The status hearing reported that there may be more discovery that will be available from reports from the DCI and grand jury. A motions hearing was set for June 12 at 10 a.m.
Allegations have come forth that Fast Wolf may be an habituation offender, with previous felony convictions for drug related charges. If convicted, this could elevate the charges now pending to a higher class felony charge, which could potentially increase a sentence to 30 years in the state penitentiary.
John Dethlefs, who was named as a codefendant, appeared without an attorney and applied for court appointed counsel. Judge Brown appointed Gettysburg attorney Joan Powell to serve as his lawyer. Dethlefs was also advised that previous drug related convictions allege that he is an habituation offender which could enhance the felony charges he is facing, which could result in a sentence of up to 20 years in the penitentiary.
Potter County State’s Attorney Craig Smith asked the judge if there was a way to separate Dethlefs and Fast Wolf as codefendants, which will be reviewed.
Also appearing before Judge John Brown was Cody Holzwarth, who made an initial appearance on a window peeking charge stemming from a March 2 incident when he was alleged to have looked through the window of property rented by Mary Beth Holzwarth.
Holzwarth pleaded guilty to the Class 1 misdemeanor charge. A Class 1 carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. He told the court that he and his wife are separated and “emotions got the better of me.”
Smith said that a plea had been offered, and a protection order had initially been filed but was dismissed, and there have been no problem since the incident. He also explained that a divorce is pending.
Judge Brown imposed a sentence of 10 days with all suspended, in addition to one year of unsupervised probation and a fine of $100 plus $84 court costs.
James Koertge of Tolstoy made an initial appearance facing charges of DUI and reckless driving.  The charges allege that on April 29 he did commit the offense of driving under the influence and reckless driving, both of which are a Class 1 misdemeanor. Koertge, who appeared without an attorney, entered a guilty plea to both charges.
“I was driving like an idiot,” he told the court, saying that a concerned citizen reported him to law enforcement. He told the court repeatedly that he made a bad decision and a horrible mistake, and said he called law enforcement to apologize. He went on to say that he had an appointment at the Mayo Clinic for some surgery, and tearfully told the court that it is important to get back to taking care of his four grandchildren.
He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, suspending all but five days with one day credit for time served. He was fined $350 plus $84 court costs for the DUI, and $100 plus $84 court costs for the reckless driving charge, plus another $80 for the blood test and $50 a day for jail time. He will be on unsupervised probation for one year, and driving privileges will be revoked for 30 days, in addition to an alcohol evaluation.
Koertge said that the one day of jail time he had already done was extremely hard due to physical limitations, and asked if there were any way he could do public services of some kind rather than try to recover from his upcoming surgery in a jail cell. Judge Brown let the remaining four days of the jail sentence stand, giving him until later in the summer to complete the sentence.
In a court trail, Danny Vincent and Dean Vincent were exonerated on Class 2 misdemeanor charges alleging use of a motor vehicle to disturb or chase big game while hunting deer on Dec. 7 of last year.
Smith called SD Game, Fish and Parks Wildlife Conservation Officer Brad Saltsman to the stand to testify for the prosecution. Saltsman described the events that led to issuing the tickets, which included seeing the Vincents driving a pickup in a harvested corn field and seeing Danny pointing a rifle at a buck that was running across the field. Saltsman said that it was approximately eight minutes after the legal hunting time, and he believed that a shot would have been taken had Saltsman not been there.
In cross examination, the Vincents, who were without legal counsel, asked questions which raised the main question of reasonable doubt. It was revealed that there is nothing illegal about looking at deer or being in a corn field as long as permission has been granted by the landowner. A Game, Fish, and Parks cell phone app used by Dean indicated that they still had time to hunt, but both testified that no shots were fired and the animal was being viewed through the scope of the gun instead of using binoculars. Because of the topography of the land, Saltsman was not in constant visual contact with them.
Dean said that they were told by the officer when the ticket was issued that it was not a big deal, comparing it to a speeding ticket, but Dean countered that it is a big deal, saying they have been hunting since they were 12 years old and did not want their names in the paper for doing something wrong when they hadn’t done anything wrong. He said he volunteers to help different groups hunt and they have a good record which is important to them. He also asked how the officer could perceive what he thought they were going to do regarding shooting the deer.
The judge agreed that there was reasonable doubt and there was a certain degree of speculation regarding what may have scared the deer or caused it to run.
Both men were declared not guilty of the charges.
The next court date will be held Monday, June 2 at 10 a.m.
-Molly McRoberts

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