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Lakota Peoples Law Project Released a Special Report on the Richard Mette case, a Non-Indian Foster Care Parent of Indian Girls in South Dakota, Convicted of Child Rape

A four-month investigation by the Lakota People’s Law Project (http://www.lakotalaw.org) of the nonprofit Romero Institute (http://www.romeroinstitute.org ) examines the case of Richard Mette, a SD foster care parent of Indian girls, who was convicted this week of child rape and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The original charges against Mr. Mette were filed by Attorney Taliaferro, who was the former assistant state attorney in charge of prosecuting child abuse cases in Brown County, SD. The investigative Special Report also reviews the evidence surrounding the criminal charges against Attorney Taliaferro and child advocate Shirley Schwab for alleged “witness tampering and subornation of perjury”. Attorney General Jackley lodged these charges against Mr. Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab in November 2011 within days of Peabody-award winning expose by Laura Sullivan (http://www.npr.org/2011/10/25/141672992/native-foster-care-lost-children-shattered-families ) revealing ongoing state violations of the rights of Native children. Attorney Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab were charged by the state with allegedly disclosing confidential case information and encouraging perjury by two Indian children against Richard and Gwendolyn Mette. (CR 10-11-13 and CR 11-274; Fifth Circuit Superior Court, Aberdeen, South Dakota.) To read the full Special Report, please visit: http://lakotalaw.org/special-reports/special-report-justice-as-retaliation/

According to the Lakota People’s Law Project investigation, Mr. Taliaferro’s and Mrs. Schwab’s state criminal indictments were the result of their having run afoul of their state superiors in attempting to protect Native American children.

Attachments

The Lakota People's Law Project Special Report on the Mette Case

June 04, 2012

The Lakota People’s Law Project, a non-profit Indian rights organization of the Romero Institute, recently released a Special Report of their four month investigation of the Richard Mette Indian child rape case, and the criminal charges filed against the acting attorney Brandon Taliaferro and child advocate Shirley Schwab. Mr. Mette, a non-Indian foster care parent of Indian girls was convicted May 29th of child rape and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Attorney Taliaferro, the former assistant state attorney in charge of prosecuting child abuse cases in Brown County, South Dakota, filed charges against Mr. Mette in 2011 (CR 10-11-13; Fifth Circuit Superior Court of South Dakota). To read the full Special Report, please visit:http://lakotalaw.org/special-reports/special-report-justice-as-retaliation/

“Attorney Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab were working to protect Indian children from rape and incest in a state foster care home. Although Mr. Mette has pled guilty and been convicted, the two critics of the foster care parents were indicted by the state for alleged 'witness tampering' and 'subornation of perjury' in cases State of South Dakota v. Brandon Taliaferro (CR 12-428 and CR 12-431; Aberdeen, South Dakota) and State of South Dakota v. Shirley Schwab (CR 12-427 and CR 12-430; Aberdeen, South Dakota). Attorney Taliaferro and Mrs. Schwab were charged by the state with allegedly disclosing confidential case information and encouraging perjury by two Indian children against Richard Mette and his wife Gwendolyn. The court has scheduled a Status Hearing on June 13, and a jury will ultimately decide whether Taliaferro and Schwab are guilty or not,” states Daniel Sheehan, Harvard trained attorney and counsel for the Lakota People's Law Project.

Attorney Brandon Taliaferro is the former assistant state attorney of Brown County in charge of prosecuting child abuse cases in Brown County, and Mrs. Shirley Schwab is a widely respected court-appointed child advocate for Brown County. The Aberdeen News reported on Dec. 19, 2011, that Attorney Taliaferro asserts that he was “simply looking out for the children,” “trying to hold the Department of Social Services accountable,” and “refusing to participate in the cover-up of misconduct” by the D.S.S.

According to the National Public Radio investigation “Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families” by Laura Sullivan in October 2011, Native American children in the State of South Dakota have been being seized, removed from their Lakota families and Tribe, and placed involuntarily into state foster care facilities by the State of South Dakota. In fact, the Child Welfare League of America reports that Native children constitute from 61% -to-68% of the children seized and placed in out-of-home care in South Dakota over the last ten-years, even though they make up less than 13% of the state’s total child population. Placing the Lakota children in non-Indian foster care violates the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (authored by former South Dakota United States Senator James Abourezk), which mandates that all necessary “active efforts” be undertaken by State officials to place such children with their “closest Native American family member,” so as not to remove these Indian children from their Native American culture.

Research shows that the outcomes for Indian Children in non-Indian foster care homes and institutions are not encouraging. In fact, Judge Thorne of the Utah Supreme Court asserts that, “Over 60% of Native children in non-native foster care who age out of the system are homeless, in prison, or dead by age 20.” Also, according to Attorney Sheehan, “The current system is a failure. Our research shows that the State of South Dakota is the worst violator of the Indian Child Welfare Act in the nation.”

To read the full Special Report, please visit: http://lakotalaw.org/special-reports/special-report-justice-as-retaliation/

Since 2006 the Lakota People’s Law Project has been partnering with the Native American tribes of South Dakota. Through law, public policy, research, and education, LPLP is challenging systemic injustices and working for the renewal of Lakota culture and society. The Lakota People’s Law Project is sponsored by the non-profit organization the Romero Institute of Santa Cruz, CA. The Romero Institute, named after slain human rights advocate, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, seeks to identify and disassemble structural sources of injustice and threats to the survival of our human family.