PIERRE — Three area cases are scheduled to be considered on the South Dakota Supreme Court's January docket. They involve a man who asserts he wasn't properly informed about his guilty plea, one who contests his conviction at trial and another who argues he should have been allowed to proceed with a 2016 lawsuit.
One criminal case being appealed is that of Jeremiah Hart, 30, who lived in Huron before being sent to the Jameson Annex at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls in January 2013 for attacking a jailer at the Davison County Jail.
At the time of his offense, Hart was in the jail for his role in burning a stolen car in September 2012. For that charge, he was sentenced to two years in prison, which ran concurrently with the first two years of his 15-year sentence for aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer. The assault left the jailer with multiple facial fractures and a broken jaw.
Hart is not appealing the sentence he received for the assault conviction, but the circumstances that led up to his pleading guilty to the charge in July 2013.
Judge Chris Giles determined at a hearing last year that Hart's constitutional rights had been violated when Judge Tim Bjorkman failed to advise him of his right to appeal, and he gave Hart credit for 84 days served in jail in Beadle County toward Hart's Davison County sentence. He upheld the remainder of Hart's sentence, and the Supreme Court will now consider Hart's appeal of Giles' May 7 decision.
In a letter to Giles filed in July 2019, Hart wrote that his guilty plea was invalid because he hadn't made a "knowing and intelligent" waiver when he entered it.
Hart wrote that the only reason he had pleaded guilty was that he believed doing so would lead to the dismissal of charges pending against him in Beadle County, as part of the plea agreement. He alleged in his letter that he hadn't been informed that the Beadle County charges had been dismissed prior to the entry of his plea in Davison County, and that no record of that dismissal was made when establishing a factual basis for his guilty plea.
"Had I known I was only facing Davison County charges leading up to change of plea, I would have knowingly insisted on going to trial on said charges," Hart wrote.
The court has also agreed to consider the case of 60-year-old Lewis Hintz, of Freeman, who is appealing sentences for Hutchinson County convictions of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest, possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct.
Hintz was convicted at trial in January 2019 and was sentenced to 90 days in prison for the assault, which court documents indicate involved hitting a man in the neck with a pitchfork in 2018. He was also given a seven-year suspended sentence and ordered to serve four years on probation.
Hintz filed a notice of appeal in February 2019, indicating he was appealing Judge Patrick Smith's judgment of conviction and order suspending an execution of sentence.
The final area case on the court's January docket involves a Douglas Ducheneaux, a Tripp County man who originally sued Gary Fenenga and Terry Pechota in February 2016.
According to the original complaint, Fenenga had been appointed as the conservator, or person assigned to help a person make financial decisions when they become unable to do so on their own, for Wayne Ducheneaux in 2011, and Pechota had been employed as Fenenga's attorney in connection with that conservatorship, representing a number of Wayne Ducheneaux's heirs.
Douglas Ducheneaux alleged that Fenenga ignored his fiduciary duty to consult with Wayne Ducheneaux and assist him in making decisions, instead supporting Pechota and Wayne Ducheneaux's heirs over both Ducheneauxs. It also argued that Pechota had breached his fiduciary duty by failing to comply with Wayne Ducheneaux's wishes.
The complaint references a lawsuit previously brought against Douglas Ducheneaux, which it argued was filed as a direct result of Fenenga and Pechota's actions.
In March 2019, Judge Mark Burnett ordered that summary judgment be granted in favor of Fenenga and Pechota, stating in his judgment that claims against the two were barred by two statutes that prevent people from relitigating issues determined to have already been resolved in court, as the topics in question were first addressed in the case of Estate of Ducheneaux v. Douglas Ducheneaux.
Ducheneaux's appeal asked the Supreme Court to consider whether those statutes barred him from suing Fenenga and Pechota in after the circuit court hadn't allowed him to file a third-party complaint against them in the underlying estate case, as well as the responsibilities Fenenga and Pechota may have had to the conservatorship.
The court is slated to begin considering the cases on Jan. 13.