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Herrick woman considering lawsuit against sheriff's office for wrongful arrest

BURKE -- A Herrick woman is still in shock after charges of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer and aggravated eluding and reckless driving against her were dismissed.

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BURKE - A Herrick woman is still in shock after charges of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer and aggravated eluding and reckless driving against her were dismissed.

Laura DeLong, 38, of Herrick, was accused of driving at high speeds about five miles west of Bonesteel, and twice swerving toward a Gregory County deputy who was allegedly pursuing her, court documents state.

DeLong said she never swerved toward anyone and didn't know she was being followed by law enforcement. DeLong stopped her vehicle on tribal ground and said she was pulled from the vehicle by Gregory County officials. She claims she heard her arm snap out and back into place, and she was then handcuffed until a tribal officer arrived to tell the officers to let her go.

"The arresting officer made contact with the Defendant after the vehicle she was driving was observed having traffic violations around the Bonesteel, SD, area on US Highway 18, which prompted the officer to initiate a traffic stop," according to a statement from Gregory County State's Attorney Amy Bartling emailed to The Daily Republic. "Once contact with the vehicle was made, it was determined the vehicle was on tribal ground so the Defendant was released. Subsequently, a warrant was issued and the Defendant was later arrested on the warrant."

DeLong was arrested on Nov. 4 and held in jail for 10 days.

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On March 21, Bartling dismissed all charges against DeLong.

Sandy Steffen, DeLong's attorney, said she filed a motion to dismiss because county law enforcement has no jurisdiction on tribal ground, and Bartling dismissed the charges on March 21.

Now that the charges are dismissed, DeLong said she may file a lawsuit for wrongful arrest, if she can find the resources.

"I filed the motion to dismiss because law enforcement went onto tribal property illegally, and apparently the state agreed with me," Steffen said.

Bartling also dismissed charges of first-offense DUI, eluding and other misdemeanors in another case, in which DeLong was charged with driving intoxicated on June 28 and eluding police until she reached tribal ground.

"After a Motion to Suppress was filed by the Defendant asserting jurisdictional issues, the State's Attorney determined that the evidence gathered was collected on tribal ground - making it inadmissible in state court based on South Dakota Supreme Court rulings," Bartling said in a statement. "Since the evidence collected could not be used, the files were dismissed. Gregory County has some checkerboard areas of state and tribal ground, making it difficult at times to determine proper jurisdiction until after a stop and the evidence is gathered."

DeLong said her decision regarding a lawsuit is not "set in stone," but she wants her name cleared in the community.

"I just want the people of Gregory County to know what truly happened and what really happened," DeLong said.

Related Topics: CRIME
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