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United States v. Sierra

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

October 3, 2019





         Defendant Dustin Sierra was arrested on a federal complaint on July 30, 2019. (Dockets 1 & 3). He made his initial appearance on the complaint before Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann on July 31. (Docket 10). The magistrate judge temporarily detained defendant at that hearing. (Docket 13). On August 14, a grand jury indicted defendant on charges of kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse by force, interstate domestic violence, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and assault by strangulation of a dating partner. (Docket 31). The counts of the indictment pertaining to defendant charged him with these offenses both as a principal and as an aider and abettor. Id. at pp. 1-3. The indictment separately charges co-defendant Jesse Sierra on these same offenses solely as a principal. Id. at pp. 4-5.

         Also on August 14, the magistrate judge held a detention hearing for defendant pursuant to the Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3141 et seq. (Docket 33). She found defendant posed a serious risk to the safety of another person or the community and ordered him detained pending trial. (Docket 35 at p. 1). Now before the court is defendant's appeal of the magistrate judge's detention order, filed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b). (Docket 36). The government opposes the appeal. (Docket 45). For the reasons given below, the court denies the appeal.

         I. Allegations

         The factual recitation given here is based on the allegations in the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint and the evidence presented before the magistrate judge at defendant's detention hearing. The court well understands that new evidence may emerge as the case progresses. This factual recitation is necessarily incomplete because of the early stage of the case. It does not bind the magistrate judge or the court in any factfinding endeavors that may be undertaken in response to future motions. As in all proceedings under the Bail Reform Act, nothing in this order is intended to “modify[] or limit[] the presumption of innocence.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(j).

         On July 14, Esther Wolfe was reported missing to the Rapid City Police Department (“RCPD”). (Docket 1-1 at ¶ 3). The reporting party stated Ms. Wolfe and co-defendant Jesse Sierra had dated and that he had assaulted Ms. Wolfe during the relationship. Id. Defendant and Mr. Sierra are brothers. (Docket 43 at p. 6). The reporter last observed Ms. Wolfe on July 13 at her workplace, the Hilton Garden Inn. (Docket 1-1 at ¶ 3). The RCPD interviewed friends of Ms. Wolfe. Id. at ¶ 4. They stated Mr. Sierra was set to be released from jail in Colorado and Ms. Wolfe was afraid of his return. Id.

         On July 17, Oglala Sioux Tribe police went to the home of defendant's father, Michael Sierra, Sr. (Docket 42 at p. 8). They spoke with defendant there. Id. Defendant stated he had not seen Mr. Sierra or Ms. Wolfe. Id. Also on July 17, the RCPD received a call from Ms. Wolfe. (Docket 1-1 at ¶ 7). She told police she was not in danger. Id. The call was placed from a No. registered to Louella Youngman, defendant's mother. Id.; see also Docket 8 at p. 1. Ms. Youngman told the RCPD Mr. Sierra and Ms. Wolfe had been at her property and later went to Chadron, Nebraska. (Docket 1-1 at ¶ 8). On July 18, defendant's brother, Michael Sierra, Jr., told the RCPD that defendant, Mr. Sierra and Ms. Wolfe were all together but denied they had been at his house in Chadron.[1] Id. at ¶ 10.

         On July 21, Ms. Wolfe appeared at the hospital in Chadron. Id. at ¶ 11. She was severely bruised on her face and body-including on her neck and collarbone area-and had a broken jaw and broken ribs. Id. On July 22, RCPD and Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”) officers interviewed Ms. Wolfe. Id. at ¶ 12. Ms. Wolfe stated she had previously been in a dating relationship with Mr. Sierra and that he came to her workplace on July 13. Id. She agreed to go to the Golden Corral restaurant with him. Id. at ¶ 13. Golden Corral surveillance footage shows defendant, Mr. Sierra and Ms. Wolfe in the restaurant on July 13. (Docket 43 at p. 7). Defendant's child was also with the group at the restaurant. Id.

         After leaving the restaurant, they went to the 24/7 Program building.[2] Id. Mr. Sierra, Ms. Wolfe and defendant's vehicle were captured on surveillance footage at that location. Id. Defendant then drove the group to his home in Oglala, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. (Docket 1-1 at ¶¶ 14, 17). Ms. Wolfe did not want to go to the reservation and attempted to flee. Id. at ¶ 14. During the drive to Oglala, Mr. Sierra “repeatedly strangled [Ms.] Wolfe to unconsciousness.” Id. at ¶ 15. Defendant refused to stop the vehicle or help Ms. Wolfe. Id. at ¶¶ 14-16. Defendant's child was present in the vehicle while Mr. Sierra was strangling Ms. Wolfe. (Docket 43 at p. 7).

         In Oglala, Mr. Sierra repeatedly sexually and physically assaulted Ms. Wolfe.[3] (Docket 1-1 at ¶¶ 17-22). Some of the alleged assaults were torturous. Mr. Sierra tied Ms. Wolfe up inside a camper and confined her into a small space by nailing boards around her. Id. at ¶ 20. He physically and sexually assaulted her inside the camper. Id. Mr. Sierra also “dug a shallow grave and forced [Ms. Wolfe] to get into the grave” while asking her if she was ready to die. Id. at ¶ 22. Ms. Wolfe did not allege defendant directly participated in any of these assaults. Mr. Sierra took Ms. Wolfe to an abandoned house near Ms. Youngman's residence. Id. at ¶ 23. On July 17, defendant picked Ms. Wolfe and Mr. Sierra up from Ms. Youngman's residence and drove them to Mr. Sierra, Jr.'s, residence in Nebraska. Id. at ¶¶ 7, 24. Mr. Sierra and Ms. Wolfe then went to a motel in Crawford, where Mr. Sierra repeatedly sexually assaulted her. Id. at ¶ 25. Mr. Sierra and Mr. Sierra, Jr., later took Ms. Wolfe to the Chadron hospital. Id. at ¶ 26.

         Defendant's bail report indicates he was charged with domestic abuse in 2014, but the charge was dismissed. (Docket 8 at p. 4). In 2015, defendant pled guilty to charges of unlawfully entering a building and simple assault. Id. Defendant's wife applied for a protection order against him in 2017. Id. It was denied. Id. While defendant has been in pretrial detention, a court granted his wife a protection order. Id.

         III. Legal Standards

         “If a person is ordered detained by a magistrate judge . . . . the person may file, with the court having original jurisdiction over the offense, a motion for revocation or amendment of the order. The motion shall be determined promptly.” 18 U.S.C. § 3145(b). A district court's review of a detention order entered by a magistrate judge “should proceed de novo.” United States v. Maull, 773 F.2d 1479, 1481 (8th Cir. 1985) (en banc).

To engage in a meaningful de novo review, the district court must have available the options open to the magistrate. . . . Only after determining that release upon personal recognizance or an unsecured appearance bond will not reasonably assure appearance or will endanger the safety of others ...

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