Offender, victim roles reversed in rest stop assault case
SALEM—A Watertown man originally believed to be the victim of an assault and robbery at an interstate rest stop has been indicted on charges of assaulting the people initially arrested for the incident.
A McCook County arrest warrant was filed earlier this month for 30-year-old Kurtis Duke in connection with events that allegedly took place the night of Feb. 13.
At about 10:20 that night, according to court documents, law enforcement was dispatched to the westbound rest stop on Interstate 90, in Salem, where they found Duke, who told law enforcement that a woman and two men had assaulted him at the rest stop with a taser, baseball bat and gun.
McCook County State's Attorney Mike Fink told The Daily Republic on Thursday that the first set of arrests was made as a result of witnesses at the scene observing Duke fighting with several people, who eventually left the scene.
Brionna Eckman, 29, of Pierre; Paul Selzler Jr., 30, of Yankton; and John Peterson, 50, of Mitchell, were all arrested and charged with aggravated assault, as well as first-degree robbery and interference with emergency communications for reportedly using force to take Duke's phone.
Charges against all three were dismissed March 8 after the Division of Criminal Investigation conducted additional interviews, Fink said.
"Mr. Duke claimed that he was a victim of an assault. It was only later, when further interviews were performed, that law enforcement was led to believe that Mr. Duke was the aggressor and in possession of a firearm, and that the others were victims of criminal activity," Fink said.
Fink said that with the information that's currently been uncovered in the investigation, new charges will not be brought against the three people who were charged in February.
Duke was indicted on April 5 and charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of possession of a firearm by someone with a prior felony drug conviction. The indictment states that Duke threatened Eckman and Selzler with a Taurus 9mm handgun.
A habitual offender charge was also filed after the state submitted that Duke has previously been convicted of four felonies, all of which occurred in Minnehaha County. The information indicates Duke was sentenced for aggravated assault in April of 2008 and for receiving a stolen vehicle, possession of a controlled substance and felony failure to appear in September of 2014.
Under South Dakota law, if Duke is convicted of the habitual offender charge in addition to at least one of the other charges, the maximum punishment for the principal felony could be enhanced to that of a Class C felony.
Because Duke has been convicted of at least three prior felonies and at least one of those involved a violent offense, he could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the assault or firearm possession charges.