Author Archives: Bob Mercer

Rapid City man sentenced for sex crime

Federal Judge Jeffrey Viken sentenced a Rapid City man to twenty years in prison, followed by fifteen years of supervised release, for attempted enticement of a minor.

Shane Davison, age 37, attempted to convince multiple minor Filipino females to engage in criminal sexual acts using the Internet for payment, according to the U.S. Attorney Office for South Dakota.

The sentencing occurred June 2, 2017. The announcement came Dec. 11, 2017.

Mission man sentenced for a meth crime

Federal Judge Roberto Lange recently sentenced a man from Mission, S.D., to forty-six months in custody, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance aka methamphetamine.

The man, Richard William Neiss, age 46, also was fined $1,000, forfeited $1,141.76 and ammunition, and paid a special federal assessment of $100, according to the U.S. Attorney Office for South Dakota.

The judge sentenced the defendant Dec. 11. Neiss originally faced three charges related to methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty to one.

He was found with amphetamine on three occasions spanning four years.

The first was July 22, 2014, when authorities caught Neiss possessing four grams at the Rosebud gambling casino.

The second came Nov. 24, 2016, when tribal police stopped his vehicle in Mission. They found 2.5 grams, three digital scales, the above-mentioned cash and a box of shotgun shells.

The third was April 8, 2017, again in Mission. Neiss had 22.17 grams, along with a pipe and a small plastic bowl that authorities determined had meth residue.

Neiss also admitted that, on Feb. 8, 2017, he distributed 11.1 grams of meth to another person in Eagle Butte and received $1,050.

How fast has flu spread?

South Dakota Department of Health officials confirmed 59 new cases of influenza a week ago. That meant citizens were coming down with the flu at the fastest rate in at least five years.

But – and this might be important – the 59 cases represented a downturn. Take a look at the chart. (And get your flu shot if you haven’t already.) For more visit the SDDOH flu site’s weekly report at

SDDOH 12/15/17


More replacements selected for Rep. Tieszen

Two more lawmakers were recently chosen to succeed Rep. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, on state government panels.

Rep. Kevin Jensen, R-Canton, replaces Tieszen on the state Corrections Commission. Tieszen had been commission chairman.

The newest legislator, Rep. Doug Barthel, R-Sioux Falls, replaces Tieszen on the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision State Council. Tieszen and Barthel were previously police chiefs.

Barthel took his oath Dec. 5 to replace Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, who resigned to accept a leadership post for a conservative foundation.

Tieszen and brother-in-law Brent Moline drowned Nov. 22 while kayaking on a family wedding vacation.

Also reappointed recently was a third legislator, Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City. He will serve another term on Council for the Interstate Compact for Juveniles.

Northern State announces Wolf Pact scholars

Northern State University officials describe its Wolf Pact scholarships as “the largest guaranteed, four-year scholarship in South Dakota.” Students enrolling as freshmen are chosen based on ACT scores.

The Aberdeen campus recently announced its recipients for the coming academic year. Thirteen students scheduled to get $12,000 are:

Madeline Brandner, Mitchell; Joshua Cox and Rebecca Cox, Ipswich; Roger Frank II, Gregory; Zachariah Fries, Langford; Alexander Kern, Groton Area;

Joseph King, Pierre; John Litwiller and Caleb Schoenfelder, Huron; Greg Lux, Eden Valley-Watkins, Minn.; Steve Meyer, homeschooled (Presho); Megan Mooberry, Osage, Minn.; and Isaac Seaton, Aberdeen Central.

Students scheduled to receive $11,000 are:

Morgan Binfet, Fargo North, North Dakota; Zachary Bohnenkamp, Canyon Del Oro, Tuscon, Ariz.; Micah Brown and Grant Duvall, Huron; Zachary Burns, Benson, Minn.;

Brennan Carlson, Brookings; Micah Gleason and Kendrin Millage, Dell Rapids; Brady Hamer, Lyman (Kennebec); Elizabeth Klamm, Brandon; Sydney Morton, Aberdeen Central;

Chance Olson, Langford; Rachel Reinke, Hastings, Minn.; Robert Vomacka, Gregory; and Grace Woodstead, Griggs County, North Dakota.

There are approximately 70 more set to get $7,000 each and approximately 100 more scheduled for $5,000 apiece, according to Northern State officials. The full list is at

Torch is being passed at Northern Crops Institute

Mark Weber made the road trip from Fargo to Pierre this week and attended the South Dakota Wheat Commission meeting Monday.

He is retiring at the end of December after six years as director for the Northern Crops Institute at North Dakota State University.

His successor will be Mark Jirek.

Jirek has a bachelor degree in agricultural economics from NDSU, a master degree in agricultural economics from University of Illinois and seventeen years at Cargill.

Weber told commissioners Monday he understood the difficulty, given low production last summer, of South Dakota’s paying $25,000 to the institute.

“We’ve had a good run and NCI is in good shape,” Weber said.

Commission chairman Clint Vanneman of Ideal told Weber his work was noted. “You’ve been a great friend,” Vanneman said. “It really is appreciated.”

Commissioner Chet Edinger of Mitchell has served on the institute’s governing council and commissioner Tregg Cronin of Gettysburg is now council vice chairman.

According to the institute’s web site, council members represent wheat, barley, corn, soybeans, oilseeds and dry-beans producers as well as North Dakota State University, the North Dakota Agriculture Department and private companies such as General Mills.

“The council sets policy and is responsible for working with the staff in long-range planning,” the site said.

The institute’s purpose is providing educational and technical programs that encourage domestic and international markets.

Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota fund its operations. So do commodity organizations in those states and Montana.

Weber, who farmed at Casselton, N.D., has a bachelor degree in mechanized agriculture and agronomy and a master degree in agricultural economics. Both are from NDSU.

Prior to becoming director for the institute, Weber was executive director for Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association 12 years and the first executive director for North Dakota Soybean Council and Growers Association more than five years.

A photo of Weber and Jirek is here.

Commerce panel is getting acclimated

State senators and representatives who serve on their respective Commerce and Energy Committees met twice in recent months to receive briefings from state government agencies they handle during legislative sessions.

Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre, organized the meetings. He is the House chairman.

The first was Sept. 27 at the Capitol, followed by a trip Sept. 28 to Milbank and Huron to visit utility facilities.

The joint panel is meeting again today. At the start, Rounds recalled how some legislators seemed short of basic knowledge about the departments during the 2017 session.

According to minutes from the Sept. 27 meeting, “He indicated that this effort is a pilot program and he hopes it will prove to be successful, encouraging other standing committees to do the same during the interim.”

Those minutes added, “Senator Phil Jensen, Senate Chair, stated he appreciates Representative Rounds effort to bring members up to speed on these issues.”

The lawmakers heard Sept. 27 from the Department of Revenue’s various divisions on property taxes and special taxes, business taxes, gaming, lottery and motor vehicles. They also received presentations from state government’s Public Utilities Commission and South Dakota electric-utilities companies.

According to the meeting minutes, “Representative Rounds indicated that, based on positive feedback, he will approach the Executive Board about using the interim to have meetings like this in the future, and that he appreciated the support of Commerce and Energy members.”

The meeting today features the Department of Labor and Regulation, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Bureau of Administration.

Other House members are Arch Beal, R-Sioux Falls; Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham; Lana Greenfield, R-Doland; Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings; David Johnson, R-Rapid City; Elizabeth May, R-Kyle; Steven McCleerey, D-Sisseton; John Mills, R-Volga; Tom Pischke, R-Dell Rapids; Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford; Mark Willadsen, R-Sioux Falls; and Larry Zikmund, R-Sioux Falls.

Senators are Craig Kennedy, D-Yankton; Jack Kolbeck, R-Sioux Falls; Stace Nelson, R-Fulton;  Jenna Netherton, R-Sioux Falls; Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen; Neal Tapio, R-Watertown; and Jensen, R-Rapid City.

GOED division grows by two

Two more people recently joined the community development staff at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The Nov. 27 additions of Adam Molseed and Lori Frederick bring the division to four.

They joined director Joe Fiala, who works from the Pierre office, and community development representative Scott Amundson, who is based in Langford.

Commissioner Scott Stern recently announced the hirings of Frederick and Molseed.

Their “knowledge, skills and passion for South Dakota” make them “great assets,” Fiala said in a statement.

Frederick was executive director of the Deadwood-Lead Economic Development Corporation and now covers western South Dakota. She can be reached at or (605) 641-8320.

Molseed was a senior revenue agent for state government’s Department of Revenue in Sioux Falls. He now covers southeastern South Dakota. He can be reached at or (605) 367-4654.

Other personnel changes at GOED include the recent retirement by Charlie Van Gerpen of Pierre,

Haugaard set as next House speaker pro tem

House Republicans met in a closed-door caucus Tuesday morning and nominated Rep. Steve Haugaard of Sioux Falls for the vacant post of speaker pro tempore, according to Jason Hancock, executive director for the non-partisan Legislative Research Council.

The full House of Representatives will vote on the nomination when it convenes for its regular 2018 session at noon Tuesday, January 9, Hancock said.

Haugaard would be starting his fourth year in the House when the 2018 session opens.

Haugaard would preside over the House when the speaker, Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, isn’t available. Typically the speaker pro tem is selected as the new speaker after legislative elections for the next term.

The post previously was held by former Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, who resigned earlier this year.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, selected Doug Barthel, R-Sioux Falls, as the replacement for Haggar in the 70-member House. The appointment came Sept. 6.

Rep. Barthel took his legislative oath Tuesday prior to the governor’s budget speech to a House chamber jammed with representatives at their desks and senators on chairs filling the aisles.

Haugaard reportedly competed against Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, and Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, for the speaker pro tem spot.

House Republicans normally don’t discuss caucus elections.

Legislators selected to replace Rep. Tieszen

The Nov. 22 death of state Rep. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, created vacancies on several legislative panels that meet later this month.

Rep. John Lake, R-Gettysburg, takes the seat on the State-Tribal Relations Committee. The panel meets for the fourth and final time Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. MT in Rapid City.

Rep. Hugh Bartels, R-Watertown, fills the vacancy on the Government Operations and Audit Committee. The panel meets Dec. 18 at 8 a.m. CT in the Capitol. An agenda hasn’t been posted.