Judicial Error – Man waits 27 years to be re-sentenced

Judicial Error

A 27-year-old judicial error in the South Dakota court system, if practically speaking an abstraction, surfaced again last week in an opinion from the state Supreme Court.

In 1987, Byron Red Kettle, now 51, kidnapped a Box Elder gas-station clerk, fled to Nebraska and sexually assaulted the woman. Thirty years later, after stays in a federal prison as far away as Louisiana and for nearly a decade at state prisons in Nebraska, Red Kettle is back in South Dakota in the the Sioux Falls penitentiary, serving a life sentence for kidnapping with gross physical injury.

It’s the case of three jurisdictions colliding on one crime spree. When Judge Roland Grosshans of the 7th Circuit in Rapid City sentenced Red Kettle in 1989, he’d already had reached a plea deal with federal officials on three felony counts, including kidnapping. Assuring maximum — if largely symbolic — penalty, Grosshans ordered his life sentence to run after his 20-year federal sentences. But Red Kettle appealed, arguing the time he owed the state should begin with his federal sentence. In 1990, the South Dakota Supreme Court agreed, remanding the case back to Grosshans to correct the sentence.

But this never happened. It took until 2017for the 7th Circuit Court — which covers Pennington, Custer, Fall River and Oglala Lakota counties and is now presided over by Judge Craig A. Pfeifle — to fix the sentence in a hearing in a Rapid City courtroom that Red Kettle appeared in via a telephone.

Read the full story on the Rapid City Journal