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Law Enforcement: Nebraska Man Files Complaint Over Bogus South Dakota Bust

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #521)
Politics & Advocacy

As part of a new Drug War Chronicle occasional series on victims of the war on drugs, we told the story of Eric Sage back in November. Now, there are new developments.

Eric Sage
On his way home to Nebraska after attending the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota last summer, Sage's motorcycle was pulled over by a highway patrolman. A pick-up truck accompanying him also stopped, and when the patrolman searched that vehicle, he found one of the passengers in possession of a pipe and a small amount of marijuana. Bizarrely, the patrolman charged not only all the pick-up truck passengers but also Sage with possession of paraphernalia.

Unlike most people arrested on drug charges -- even bogus ones -- Sage refused to roll over. That prompted local prosecutors to threaten to charge him with "internal possession," a crime (so far) only in South Dakota, and a charge even less supported by the evidence (there was none) than the original paraphernalia charge. After repeated multi-hundred mile trips back to South Dakota for scheduled court hearings, Sage's charges mysteriously evaporated, with prosecutors in Pennington County lamely explaining that they had decided the charge should have been filed in another county.

Sage was a free man, but his freedom wasn't free. Sage says his encounter with South Dakota justice cost him thousands of dollars, lost work days, and considerable stress. Now, he is seeking redress.

On Monday, Sage and South Dakota NORML announced that he had filed complaints with several South Dakota agencies and professional standards groups regarding the actions of the prosecutors, Pennington County (Rapid City) District Attorney Glenn Brenner and Assistant DA Gina Nelson, and the highway patrolman, Trooper Dave Trautman.

Sage accuses Trautman of improperly charging everyone present at the incident with possession of paraphernalia. He also accuses Trautman of concocting an arrest report long after the fact to support the new charge of internal possession. Sage accuses Assistant DA Nelson and her boss of prosecuting a case they knew was bogus and of threatening to convict him of an offense where they knew he was not guilty because he refused to plead to the original paraphernalia charge.

"They mugged me," Sage said. "They cost me $4,000. I had to travel to Rapid City several times, I had to hire a lawyer, I missed work. It cost me three times as much to get them to drop a bogus charge as it would have cost me to say I was guilty of something I didn't do and pay their fines. They only quit when they ran out of clubs to hit me with."

Main Street during Sturgis Rally (courtesy Wikimedia)
Prosecutors didn't even have the courtesy to let him or his local attorney know they had finally dropped the charges, Sage said. "My lawyer called Gina Nelson several times to see if I needed to drive up on Nov. 21," he said. "She wouldn't return the calls. So when I got there, I found the charges had been dropped on the 16th. Gina had purposefully made me drive one more 500 mile round trip, for nothing."

Now, we'll see if the powers that be in South Dakota will bring the same dogged determination to seeing justice done in this case as they do to going after anybody who even looks like a small-time drug offender. You can read Sage's complaints to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, the South Dakota Bar Association Disciplinary Committee, and the Pennington County Commission here.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

With billions of tax-payor dollars up for grabs to the biggest delusional whores... it's little wonder these creepy christians continue to kill & incarcirate in the name of there god, our children & justice for them!

A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office noted: "several studies & investigations of drug-related police corruption found on-duty police offers engaged in serious criminal activities, such as (1) conducting unconstitutional searches & seizures; (2) stealing money and/or drugs from drug dealers; (3) selling stolen drugs; (4) protecting drug operations; (5) providing false testimony; (6) submitting false crime reports."
(Law Enforcement: Information on Drug-Related Police Corruption. Washington DC USGPO May 1998)

"In War, truth is the first casualty" - Aeschylus

Alcohol Is A Drug!, THE REAL 'Gateway Drug' THEY/ Marijuana Prohibitionists hypocritically consume & enjoy... thanks to alcohols cloak of social acceptibility!

Fri, 02/01/2008 - 5:27pm Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

[email protected] Vancouver,B.C. Canada I wish this guy all the luck in the world.He's gonna need it.They won't even let wrongly convicted rapists and murders out of prison till they absolutely have to.DNA be damned if it points the other way.

Sun, 02/03/2008 - 4:52am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

i hope they do something about these crooked troopers and cops i will never go back to that state after constant harassment by these troopers.this state is red like russia .god bless you eric keep up the fight mt friend.

Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:59pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

They are run in to the bikker that will just drop a cop like that.

Wed, 12/10/2008 - 4:34pm Permalink

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