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United States v. LeBeau

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

July 21, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ELIZABETH ANN LeBEAU, a/k/a ANN LeBEAU, and FRED QUIVER, a/k/a FRED BRINGS PLENTY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE

         In January 2016, Emily Bluebird was killed. It happened in a home in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Only three people were in the room: Elizabeth Ann LeBeau, Fred Quiver and Emily Bluebird. Ms. LeBeau and Mr. Quiver were indicted for the killing. Ms. LeBeau signed a sworn statement setting out in plain terms that Mr. Quiver killed Ms. Bluebird. A sworn statement from Mr. Quiver makes it clear that Ms. LeBeau killed Ms. Bluebird. The prosecutor signed both Ms. LeBeau and Mr. Quiver's statements. Codefendants pointing fingers at each other is neither unusual nor a problem. But problems do arise when the government affirms two utterly irreconcilable factual statements identifying who caused Ms. Bluebird's death. It is the court's responsibility to unwind this issue and forge a workable path forward for this case.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On January 26, 2016, a grand jury indicted Ms. LeBeau and Mr. Quiver for the killing of Emily Bluebird. (Docket 1). Ms. LeBeau and Mr. Quiver were charged as codefendants in the case. Id. The indictment alleged Ms. LeBeau committed first degree murder and Mr. Quiver was an accessory to first degree murder. Id.

         Nearly a year later, Ms. LeBeau entered a plea agreement with the government on February 17, 2017. (Docket 59, later amended at Docket 76). She pled guilty to second degree murder which carries a maximum custody sentence of life imprisonment. (Docket 76 at p. 2). The amended superseding information she pled to states she “did unlawfully kill Emily Bluebird, by holding Emily Bluebird's hands down while she was strangled . . . .” (Docket 71 at p. 1). It does not say who strangled Ms. Bluebird.

         As part of her plea agreement, Ms. Lebeau signed a factual basis statement setting forth the facts underlying her offense. (Docket 62). Assistant United States Attorney Megan Poppen and Ms. LeBeau's attorney Dana Hanna also signed the statement, which begins, “[t]he undersigned parties stipulate that the following facts are true and establish a factual basis for the plea in the action pursuant to Federal Rules [sic] of Criminal Procedure 11(b)(3) . . . .” Id. at p. 1, 5. As to the moments surrounding the killing of Ms. Bluebird, the factual basis statement reads:

LeBeau saw Quiver had a cord in his hand. It looked like an electronics cord. Quiver rapped [sic] the cord around Emily's neck and pulled her back. Quiver went to his knees as he was choking her from behind. Emily grabbed at the cord. Quiver yelled at LeBeau, “Liz grab her fucking hands!” LeBeau grabbed Emily's hands and held them down while Quiver choked Emily. Quiver stopped choking Emily when she stopped moving.

Id. at p. 3.

         Ms. LeBeau appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann for a change of plea hearing. (Docket 77). At the beginning of the hearing, Magistrate Judge Wollmann placed Ms. LeBeau under oath. (Docket 97 at pp. 2-3). Magistrate Judge Wollmann walked Ms. LeBeau through her factual basis statement. Id. at pp. 14-15. Ms. LeBeau affirmed she had “an opportunity to read through the factual basis statement and discuss it with [her] lawyer before [she] signed it[, and that] all of the facts contained in [it are] true and correct[.]” Id. at p. 14. Magistrate Judge Wollmann issued a report and recommendation for the court to accept Ms. LeBeau's plea of guilty to second degree murder as charged in the amended superseding information. (Docket 77). The court adopted the report and recommendation in full and scheduled Ms. LeBeau's sentencing. (Docket 79).

         Four days after Ms. LeBeau's plea agreement was filed, Mr. Quiver entered a plea agreement with the government. (Docket 64, later amended at Docket 70). Mr. Quiver pled guilty to accessory to second degree murder, a crime with a maximum custody sentence of 15 years. (Docket 70 at p. 2). The superseding information Mr. Quiver pled guilty to states:

Elizabeth Ann LeBeau . . . did unlawfully and with malice aforethought kill Emily Bluebird by asphyxia, secondary to strangulation with the use of a household electronics cord, and the defendant, Fred Quiver . . . did receive, relieve, comfort, and assist [Ms. LeBeau's] apprehension, trial, and punishment . . .

(Docket 72 at p. 1).

         Like Ms. LeBeau, Mr. Quiver signed a statement delineating the facts supporting his guilty plea. (Docket 65). His attorney Ashley Parr and Assistant United States Attorney Megan Poppen signed the factual basis statement. Id. at p. 4. The document opens, “[t]he undersigned parties stipulate that the following facts are true and establish a factual basis for the plea in the action pursuant to Federal Rules [sic] of Criminal Procedure 11(b)(3) . . . .” Id. at p. 1. The moments around Ms. Bluebird's death in Mr. Quiver's statement are as follows:

Quiver saw LeBeau grab a nearby cord and wrap it around Emily's neck multiple times. LeBeau applied pressure by pulling the cord away from the front and side of Emily's neck. LeBeau strangled Emily with the cord until she stopped breathing. . . . ...

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