Buhl’s rape trial postponed, extending teen shooter’s legal woes to nearly 7 years
The trial was originally scheduled to begin Wednesday, Feb. 9, but a period of stipulation between parties pushed that date back to May.
PIERRE — A jury trial for Mason Buhl — a former Harrisburg High School student convicted for the shooting of his principal in 2015 — in Hughes County has been delayed by three months, lengthening the total resolution of his legal woes to nearly seven years.
A Hughes County judge has continued Buhl’s jury trial, regarding four counts of rape, from Feb. 9 to May 9, allowing for a period of stipulation between the involved parties.
Hughes County State’s Attorney Jessica LaMie, a prosecutor in the case, said allowing a stipulation period is common procedure to ensure all parties are prepared for a trial.
Speaking generally, she noted that stipulation is not necessarily indicative of a plea deal, but rather to allow more time to resolve outstanding “motions and issues” before a jury trial will begin.
LaMie did not comment on the stipulation period specific to Buhl's case.
However, even if Buhl was able to plead down in Hughes County, it isn’t guaranteed to help him escape a prison sentence for his reopened case in Lincoln County.
On Sep. 30, 2015, Buhl brought a gun into Harrisburg High School, showed up early for a planned meeting with then-principal Kevin Lein and shot him in his office.
Nearly two years after the shooting, in August 2017, Buhl pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was sentenced to 15 years of probation. A 25-year prison sentence was suspended on the condition that he complete his probation without any violations.
Rape charges in Hughes county — plus a report from the Sioux Falls Police Department which investigated him as a simple domestic assault suspect — means Buhl, now 22, is now facing a reopening of his attempted murder case.
Lincoln County State’s Attorney Tom Wollman told the Mitchell Republic in December that the evidentiary standards of a probation violation are different from those of a criminal trial. Because Buhl was already convicted of attempted murder, the question a Lincoln County judge will face is whether or not Buhl violated the terms of his probation — specifically no displays of violent behavior.
Lincoln County State’s Attorney Tom Wollman said the evaluation of whether Buhl violated his probation or not is unlikely to happen until after any charges in Hughes County have been resolved.
Currently, Buhl is set to appear in Lincoln County for a status hearing on the alleged probation violation on March 1; in Minnehaha County the same day for a hearing on a permanent protection order for a victim and in Hughes County for a jury trial on May 9.
If convicted on all charges in Hughes County, Buhl could be sentenced up to 200 years in prison plus a $200,000 fine, while in Lincoln County — if found responsible for a violation of the terms of his probation — he faces his original 25-year suspended sentence.