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State v. Rice

Supreme Court of South Dakota

March 2, 2016

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
KEVIN JAMES RICE, Defendant and Appellant

         Considered on Briefs January 11, 2016

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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         MARTY J. JACKLEY, Attorney General, JARED TIDEMANN. Assistant Attorney General. Pierre, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

         NICOLE J. LAUGHLIN, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorney for defendant and appellant.

         GILBERTSON, Chief Justice. ZINTER, SEVERSON, WILBUR, and KERN, Justices, concur.


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          GILBERTSON, Chief Justice

          [¶1] Kevin James Rice appeals the circuit court's imposition of an 80-year sentence for one count of first-degree manslaughter. Rice asserts his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

          [¶2] On December 2, 2013, Sioux Falls resident Jason LaBeau returned home after work to discover two intruders in his home attacking his 20-year-old son, Jordan. After Jason rushed to Jordan's aid, one of the intruders produced a pistol and shot both Jason and Jordan. After the shooting, the intruders fled the scene, leaving behind the pistol and one of their cell phones. Jason summoned help, but Jordan died before emergency assistance arrived. Jason survived his injuries.

          [¶3] Law enforcement's investigation revealed a plot conceived by Jordan's girlfriend, Faith Rasmussen, and orchestrated by Rice to steal $100,000 in cash from Jordan. Rasmussen ran a drug-distribution operation in Sioux Falls. She and Rice became acquainted with one another in the course of Rice's work for her as a distributor. In the fall of 2013, Rasmussen told Rice that Jordan kept $100,000 in a shoebox under his bed.[1] She showed Rice a picture as proof and gave him Jason's work schedule. Rasmussen's ex-boyfriend, Austin Hogan, drove Rice to, and identified, Jordan's home.

          [¶4] Rice began recruiting help. He first contacted his long-time friend, Doug Scholten. Rice then contacted Brian Anderson, an 18-year-old senior from Watertown High School who had been selling marijuana for Rice. Rice told Anderson that Jordan had previously been robbed without putting up a fight, that Jordan would likely be under the influence when they entered the house, and that Jason would not be home until after 5:00 p.m. Anderson agreed to the plan and in turn, recruited his friend, Trevor Kruthoff, a 17-year-old high school student from Watertown.

          [¶5] Shortly before December 2, Anderson and Kruthoff drove to Sioux Falls from Watertown. After meeting Rice, the three of them drove to the LaBeau residence. The three agreed that Anderson and Kruthoff would carry out the plan. The two would-be intruders plotted their point of entry and then returned to Watertown. On December 2, Anderson and Kruthoff called Rice to tell him they intended to carry out the plan that day. The two skipped school; packed duct tape, gloves, and handcuffs; left Watertown; and joined Rice and Scholten at Rice's residence. While there, Rice handed a pistol to Scholten, who loaded the weapon with ammunition. Rice then handed the weapon to Anderson.

          [¶6] Armed with a loaded firearm and a hammer, the four left Rice's residence in two different vehicles. Rice and Scholten drove one car; Anderson and Kruthoff, the other. Upon arriving at Jordan's house,

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the four noticed that his vehicle was there. Although Rice noted that the presence of Jordan's vehicle indicated Jordan was likely home, Anderson and Kruthoff decided to proceed as planned. Rice and Scholten drove to a nearby convenience store and waited for Anderson and Kruthoff to return.

          [¶7] Anderson and Kruthoff entered the home through a basement window and were almost immediately confronted by Jordan. Anderson and Kruthoff attempted to restrain Jordan. Despite the information Rice had received from Rasmussen, Jason returned home from work at 2:15 p.m. Jason struck Anderson, and Kruthoff drew the pistol. Anderson commanded Kruthoff to fire the weapon, and Kruthoff complied, firing multiple shots at--and striking--Jason. Kruthoff then turned the weapon on Jordan, shooting him as well.

          [¶8] Anderson and Kruthoff fled the scene, leaving behind the pistol and Kruthoff's cell phone. The pair did not locate the $100,000.[2] Rice and Scholten saw Anderson and Kruthoff's vehicle speed past the convenience store. Anderson sent a text message to Rice indicating there was a problem, and the four met back at Rice's residence. Rice and Scholten provided clean clothing to Anderson and Kruthoff. Rice and Scholten then destroyed Anderson's phone, disposed of as much evidence as they could, and fled to Madison for the night. Anderson and Kruthoff returned to Watertown.

          [¶9] Rice, Scholten, Anderson, and Kruthoff were all arrested and charged with homicide. All four subsequently pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Anderson and Kruthoff also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. Rice was sentenced to 80 years imprisonment with 20 years suspended. Scholten was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment with all 30 years suspended. Anderson was sentenced to 80 years imprisonment with 30 years suspended for manslaughter. He also received a suspended, concurrent, 15-year sentence for aggravated assault. Kruthoff was ...

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