SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A U.S. federal court judge will consider whether criminal contempt of court charges should stand in a May 10 courtroom incident involving a U.S. Marshal who took inmates from an Aberdeen courtroom.
Arguments were made in federal court Monday in Sioux Falls as to the legitimacy of contempt of court charges against U.S. Marshals John Kilgallon, Daniel C. Mosteller and Stephen Houghtaling. The charges stem from a May 10 incident in which Judge Charles Kormann asked the U.S. Marshal if she was vaccinated for COVID-19. Kormann said when he filed the charge that it was court policy for those working in the courtroom, including U.S. Marshals, to be vaccinated. When the U.S. Marshal refused to answer, Kormann ordered her from the courtroom until vaccination information could be verified.
U.S. Federal Judge Brian C. Buescher took a motion to dismiss the charge under advisement
“I don’t think criminal prosecution is (the means) to answer these questions,” defense attorney Ron Parsons said.
The three defendants were not in the Aberdeen courtroom on May 10, Parsons said. A U.S. Marshal was following internal policy when she left the courtroom with inmates on May 10, Parsons said. U.S. Marshals must protect the courtroom and provide security, and if the U.S. Marshal couldn’t be in the courtroom, the inmates should not be in it, Parsons said.
The contempt charge is appropriate against the three defendants because it was their action and direction that caused the U.S. Marshal to leave the courtroom with inmates, special prosecutor Cassidy Stalley said.
“Nowhere in (U.S. Marshal) policy does it direct them to remove prisoners,” Stalley said.
Stalley said Judge Buescher should not dismiss the charge without evidence being heard because “there is evidence of criminal intent…”
The law clearly states that U.S. Marshals must obey orders from a federal judge, Stalley said.
On May 10, orders from the federal judges in Aberdeen regarding COVID-19 vaccinations were clear, she said.
The judges in court that had also issued orders for court hearings on May 10 and those hearings were stalled because of the action of the U.S. Marshals, Stalley said.
Parsons said as of May 10, the U.S. Marshals had a policy where it was not asking employees if they were vaccinated for COVID-19. As of today, federal employees are required to be fully vaccinated, he said.
Even the court’s policy in Aberdeen was not clear as of May 10, Parsons said.
COVID-19 and internal polices that existed on May 10 caused “extremely unique circumstances,” Parsons said. “I would suggest this was a dispute on policy.”
Judge Buescher asked Parsons and Stalley several questions during their arguments. Both lawyers did agree on a judge’s inherent ability to dismiss charges, especially those initiated by the judge.
The case is scheduled for a Dec. 14 trial.