Former Aurora County deputy sheriff sentenced to probation for possession of child pornography

During the sentencing hearing, the judge presiding over the child pornography case that implicated David Suarez, 24, called it "unusual" and "unique."

A gavel rests.
Forum News Service file photo

MITCHELL — A former Aurora County deputy sheriff who pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography that stemmed from him asking a minor for nude photos was sentenced to probation on Tuesday.

Heading into Tuesday's sentencing hearing, David Suarez, 24, of Mitchell, was facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the possession of child pornography charge. After learning more about the charge Suarez pleaded guilty to, Davison County prosecuting attorney, Robert O’Keefe, recommended the prison time he was facing be suspended.

Judge Chris Giles called the case “unusual” and “unique.” Suarez claimed to authorities that he thought the 17-year-old who he received nude photos of through the internet was 18.

“I would not find it unusual for you to mistake a 17-year-old as being 18,” Giles said during the sentencing hearing.

Judge Giles sentenced Suarez to serve three years of probation and pay a $1,000 fine for the felony charge and acknowledged Suarez’s clean criminal record prior to the child pornography charge.


Although Suarez avoided a stint in prison, Giles had stern words for Suarez’s crime of soliciting and receiving sexually explicit photos of a minor while being in a law enforcement position.

“It’s disturbing that this conduct of behavior was done while you were in law enforcement,” Giles said.

According to court documents, Suarez received numerous nude photos of a 17-year-old minor through Facebook messenger in late June. Authorities received reports of the messages from an unknown party in early July.

Court documents say Suarez admitted to receiving the nude photos when he was brought in for questioning. At one point during the investigation, Suarez told authorities he requested images from the minor. Agents with South Dakota's Department of Criminal Investigation led the investigation into Suarez.

Suarez was terminated from the Aurora County Sheriff's Office following the child pornography charges. In a July 13 press release, Aurora County Sheriff Roman Briggs said Suarez was terminated from his role as a deputy immediately.

"Due to a recent investigation conducted by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Deputy David Suarez is no longer employed at the Aurora County Sheriff's Office," Briggs said in a statement following the indictment. "Once the Aurora County Sheriff's Office was notified of the investigation his employment with our agency was terminated."

Suarez’s attorney, Doug Pappendick, read the results from a psycho-sexual evaluation on Suarez, which Pappendick said claimed Suarez has a little over 1% chance of committing another child pornography crime. Pappendick said the evaluation also recommended against a prison sentence and supported probation.

Giles denied granting Suarez’s request for a suspended imposition. Suarez has found a different job that’s not in law enforcement since being terminated from his role as a deputy sheriff in Aurora County, according to Pappendick.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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