In 2010 Brandon Taliaferro, an idealistic young South Dakota Assistant State Attorney, along with Shirley Schwab, an experienced court-appointed special advocate, uncovered a horrific case of child physical and sexual abuse in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The offenders were Richard and Wendy Mette, two foster parents hand-picked by the Department of Social Services; the victims were four young Native American foster girls, ages 8, 9, 13 and 15 in 2010. In March of 2012, Richard Mette pleaded guilty to rape of a child under 10 years old and was given a 15 year prison sentence.
So why did the State of South Dakota spend a full year, beginning in the fall of 2011, investigating and prosecuting Taliaferro and Schwab, who stood up for the children? Because the state was fearful of being sued itself for having repeatedly ignored the sexual abuse of the foster girls. Rather than protect the children and focus its prosecutorial energies on the sex offenders, the state went on the offensive against those who were looking out for the girls’ safety. The state has now placed the children back into the same home where they were physically abused, sexually molested and raped from 2001 until 2010.
Brandon’s and Shirley’s story shows the criminal lengths to which South Dakota will go to protect its interests. In January, 2013 a veteran judge dismissed all the charges against Taliaferro and Schwab and called the year-long investigation and prosecution of them a “a case of office politics and substandard investigation.” These two child advocates need your help in exposing the cruel pattern of illegality by DSS and the Attorney General’s office.
To learn more about the deplorable treatment of the Lakota foster girls by DSS and the AG’s trumped up case against Taliaferro and Schwab, please see the following resources:
A Special Report by the Lakota People’s Law Project detailing the background of the Schwab/Taliaferro affair
Letters from Congress demanding scrutiny by BIA of South Dakota foster care
NPR’s 2011 Peabody Award-Winning Story about South Dakota’s Violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Media coverage of the trial
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