In December the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld a circuit judge’s decision that two of the charges for which Brandon Taliaferro was arrested couldn’t be expunged from his record, even though the charges were dismissed. Taliaferro was the Brown County deputy prosecutor who wound up being indicted in 2012 on allegations of witness tampering, involvement in perjury, unauthorized disclosure of abuse and neglect information and obstructing law enforcement, in relation to his professional work regarding a sex-abuse case involving minors. One charge was dropped and the other six were dismissed by Circuit Judge Gene Paul Kean. When Taliaferro later applied for the arrests to be expunged, Judge Kean said two of the arrests couldn’t be expunged because state law requires the prosecuting lawyer’s consent and that hadn’t been obtained for those two. Taliaferro appealed to the Supreme Court, and the justices there agreed Judge Kean had correctly applied the law and they said the law was “clear, certain and unambiguous.” The high court’s opinion concluded, “We recognize that this is a harsh result; nevertheless, the appropriate avenue for relief in this case is through the Legislature.”
And now the matter is before the Legislature, via Rep. Dan Kaiser, R-Aberdeen. He introduced House Bill 1134 on Wednesday. It would simply remove the portion of the expungement law requiring consent of the prosecuting attorney. Kaiser is a policeman and his record in the Legislature has tended to be one of protecting people’s personal liberties. His co-sponsors include two retired circuit judges, Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, and Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, and two private attorneys, Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, and Rep. Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls.
The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee; a hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet. The Tailaferro indictment looked, from the outside, to have been a strange chapter in law enforcement in South Dakota. Now the matter and the actions of the various sides will receive further light, to a degree they previously hadn’t, before the Legislature.