Presho man denies kidnapping incident
PIERRE -- A man accused of kidnapping his daughter and killing her dog in front of her pleaded not guilty Thursday morning.
Clinton James Brown, 35, Presho, entered his pleas to multiple felony charges including aggravated kidnapping at the Hughes County Courthouse in Pierre.
Brown allegedly held his 10-year-old daughter in a vehicle and a field for approximately three hours Aug. 17 before authorities arrived. An indictment alleges Brown choked his daughter, pointed a gun at her, repeatedly fired a gun around her -- including at least one shot near her head -- and struck her with the butt of a gun. Brown was believed to be under the influence of methamphetamine.
Two felony charges -- a second-degree attempted murder charge and a related firearms charge -- were dropped before the arraignment Thursday.
Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Pohlman, who is prosecuting the case for the state, said the attempted murder charge was dropped because in South Dakota, a second-degree attempted murder conviction is unlikely.
For a crime to be attempted murder in the second degree, there must be intent and the act must be negligent. In the 1988 South Dakota Supreme Court case State v. Lyerla, the court decided that intent and negligence cannot coexist, effectively eliminating the charge.
The court stated in its decision that "one cannot intentionally attempt to cause the death of another by a reckless act."
Pohlman said she conferred with other attorneys who had "gone down that road," and they urged her to drop the charge because continuing it would mean challenging the South Dakota Supreme Court decision.
"To comply with the Supreme Court, we decided for the purposes of moving forward with the case right away, we dropped that attempted murder charge," Pohlman said.
Brown's most serious charges now include aggravated kidnapping in the first degree and aggravated kidnapping in the second degree. The state will only seek a conviction on the second-degree aggravated kidnapping charge if Brown is found not guilty of the first-degree charge, because both are derived from the same incident.
Because Brown has three prior felonies, he is considered a habitual offender, and the second-degree aggravated kidnapping charge could be upgraded to a mandatory life sentence in the state penitentiary and a $50,000 fine. His prior felonies are listed as aiding and abetting grand theft, felony possession of a controlled substance, and grand theft.
The first-degree aggravated kidnapping charge carries a mandatory life sentence in the state penitentiary and a $50,000 fine.
If convicted on all charges, with upgrades for being a habitual offender, Brown faces as much as five life sentences plus 210 additional years in the state penitentiary, along with two years and 30 days in county jail and more than $400,000 in fines.
Besides aggravated kidnapping, Brown faces three counts of aggravated assault/domestic abuse, one each for allegedly pointing a gun at his daughter, striking his daughter with the butt of a gun and shooting a gun near her head.
Brown is also charged with abuse or cruelty to a minor after he allegedly shot his daughter's dog on Aug. 15 -- her birthday -- in front of her "and taunted her about it after she refused to follow his orders to kill the dog for barking."
Other felony charges include possession of a firearm by a felon, four counts of commission of a felony with a firearm and possession of a controlled substance (meth).
His misdemeanor charges include possession of marijuana, possession of a marijuana pipe and ingesting a controlled substance.
Brown entered the courtroom Thursday in an orange and white striped jumpsuit with shackles binding his arms and legs. He held his partially bald head and bearded face toward the ground during most of the proceedings and spoke softly only when instructed.
According to an affidavit prepared by Lyman County Sheriff's Deputy Don Jennings, he received a call on Aug. 17 from Barb Brown, the grandmother of Clinton Brown's daughter. She reported Clinton Brown had barricaded himself inside a rural house with his daughter and told her she would never see her granddaughter again.
Barb Brown also told Jennings that Clinton Brown "was wigging out and had to be on drugs," the affidavit says.
Jennings then contacted Lyman County Sheriff Steve Manger, and the two obtained a search warrant for the residence where the incident allegedly occurred.
When authorities reached Brown's daughter, she "had several injuries and was extremely distraught," the affidavit says.
The alleged barricaded house incident is spelled out in an affidavit from the Lyman County Sheriff's Office, while the alleged holding of the girl for three hours in a field is spelled out in a grand jury indictment. The timing and possible connection of the two incidents is not clearly spelled out in the available court documents.
During court Thursday, Brown's court-appointed attorney Larry Hollman asked that Brown be released on a cash bond, because Hollman said Brown is not a flight risk and Brown wants to get back to work.
Judge Patricia DeVaney denied the request.
"This is a case with serious, numerous felony charges, and we are dealing with a very young victim here," DeVaney said. "I think there is a concern for the victim and the safety of the people of the community."
Hollman also asked that another attorney be appointed as co-counsel, and that request was denied, but DeVaney said Hollman could make another such motion when the trial date is closer.
A motions hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20 at the Lyman County Courthouse in Presho.
Brown is being held in the Hughes County Jail in Pierre.