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Man loses appeal in theft case

A man sentenced to eight years in prison for writing $1,755 in bad checks to businesses in Aurora County in March 2012 has lost his appeal.

Robert Baines King claimed he was not properly advised of his constitutional rights -- namely his right to a speedy, public trial by an impartial jury in Aurora County -- before he pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft by insufficient funds. The South Dakota Supreme Court rejected King's appeal in a decision filed Wednesday.

At a Feb. 6, 2013, hearing, Judge Pat Smith advised King that by pleading guilty, King was giving up his right to a jury trial, his right to confront the state's witnesses and his right to remain silent and not testify, according to an excerpt from a transcript of the hearing included in the Supreme Court's decision. King's attorney also stated at the hearing that she advised King of all his rights, and that King understood them.

King then pleaded guilty at the hearing to one count of grand theft by insufficient funds and was later sentenced by Smith to eight years in prison. In exchange for King's plea, prosecutors agreed to not pursue other charges.

King appealed, claiming Smith did not specifically advise him of his right to a speedy, public trial by an impartial jury in Aurora County, and therefore he was denied due process.

The Supreme Court rejected King's claim that he was not properly advised of his rights because it was clear, based on his responses at the hearing, that he knowingly and voluntarily entered his guilty plea, the decision says.

There is no statutory requirement that a defendant must be advised of his right to a jury trial in the county in which the alleged crime occurred, the decision says. Instead, that right is included in the South Dakota Constitution.

"Although our constitution and related statutes require such a right be provided, an advisement prior to accepting a guilty plea need not recite every constitutional right," the decision says.

In addition to King's statements, the Supreme Court found "King's prior criminal record reveals an extensive history with law enforcement and the judicial system."

King also claimed in his appeal that his eight-year prison sentence was cruel and unusual punishment, but the Supreme Court found that claim was without merit.