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State v. Yeager

Supreme Court of South Dakota

March 6, 2019

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
SHAYLAN J. YEAGER, Defendant and Appellant.

          CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON JANUARY 7, 2019

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT PENNINGTON COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE JEFFREY R. CONNOLLY Judge

          MARTY J. JACKLEY Attorney General QUINCY R. KJERSTAD Assistant Attorney General JOHNATHAN STIEN Legal Intern Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

          JEFFREY J. FRANSEN of Pennington County Public Defender's Office Rapid City, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

          KERN, JUSTICE

         [¶1.] Shaylan Yeager pled guilty to second-degree rape pursuant to a plea agreement. The circuit court sentenced him to forty years in the state penitentiary, with five years suspended, to run consecutive to the prison term Yeager is currently serving in Iowa for offenses involving the same victim. Yeager appeals, alleging the sentence was cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment and an abuse of discretion. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] In 2008, Yeager pled guilty to five counts of third-degree sexual abuse in Iowa district court for conduct involving his fourteen-year-old daughter M.Y. The court sentenced Yeager to thirty years in prison in early 2009. In 2016, Yeager's ex-wife contacted the Pennington County Sheriff's Office and reported that Yeager had also abused M.Y. in August 2008 while their family vacationed in the Black Hills. An investigation ensued and, while Yeager was still serving his Iowa sentence, the Pennington County grand jury indicted him for ten counts of rape, sexual contact, and incest.[1] On July 14, 2017, pursuant to a plea agreement, Yeager pled guilty to one count of second-degree rape as defined in SDCL 22-22-1(2)[2] in exchange for dismissal of the remaining nine charges and an agreement that the State would forego future prosecutions in Custer County.

         [¶3.] At a subsequent sentencing hearing, the court considered numerous factors when fashioning Yeager's sentence, including: (1) statements from the victim and her mother; (2) Dr. Donald Janz's evaluation of Yeager concluding he posed a low risk of reoffending; (3) protection of the public; (4) Yeager's pre-sentence investigation, including his lack of criminal history; (5) retribution; and (6) the significant lapse of time between the offense and its prosecution. The court sentenced Yeager to forty years in prison with five years suspended and ordered that his South Dakota sentence run consecutive to his prison term in Iowa. Yeager appeals, raising two issues for our review:

1. Whether Yeager's sentence is excessive under the Eighth Amendment.
2. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion in sentencing Yeager.

         Analysis and Decision

         1. Whether Yeager's sentence is excessive under the Eighth Amendment.

         [¶4.] Yeager asserts that his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const. amends. VIII, XIV. "The question whether a noncapital sentence violates the Eighth Amendment requires us to determine de novo whether the sentence imposed is grossly disproportionate to its corresponding offense." State v. Rice, 2016 S.D. 18, ¶ 13, 877 N.W.2d 75, 80. To make this determination, we "compare the gravity of the offense-i.e., the penalty's relative position on the spectrum of all criminality-to the harshness of the penalty-i.e., the penalty's relative position on the spectrum of all permitted punishments." Id. (citations omitted). Thus, when comparing Yeager's sentence to other penalties, we are not limited to the range of penalties ...


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