Monday evening, Flandreau will swear in its new mayor. Dan Sutton has served on the city council for the last decade.
Before that, he was a state senator. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Sutton was the center of a highly-publicized legislative hearing over sexual abuse allegations in 2007.
The case prompted the South Dakota legislature to adopt a code of conduct for the first time.
Over the course of several days in January of 2007, a Senate panel heard testimony surrounding allegations of sexual abuse leveled at Democratic State Senator Dan Sutton of Flandreau.
A young family friend who was part of the legislative page program, Austin Wiese, claimed Sutton molested him. Wiese was grilled before the committee on why he didn’t fight back.
“Primarily because I was put in a situation I have never been in and I don’t think anyone should have to experience. When you get put in that you freeze,” 18-year-old Austin Wiese said in 2007.
“Senator Sutton admitted he crawled in bed with this (legislative) page. And he is kind of like an employer with an employee and that was improper and he should be taken to task for that,” The Late-Republican State Senator Gene Abdallah said in 2007.
But Sutton has always denied making any sexual advances.
“One of them was lying,” Sen. Abdullah said.
“I’m going to visit with my attorneys and I respect the committee’s opinion. I guess we’ll look forward to coming back next week and watching this unfold on the senate floor,” Dan Sutton said in 2007.
The full senate voted 32 to 2 to censure Sutton.
“A public condemnation, a reprimand,” Democratic Senator Scott Heidepriem said in 2007.
During this time, the South Dakota Attorney General was also looking into a criminal case against Sutton, but ultimately said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him with a crime.
Another former student who was close to Sutton was interviewed as part of the investigation. Nate LaLonde is now 38-years-old. He says he didn’t tell investigators the truth at the time.
“As far as if anyone would have believed me–I don’t know that. And I think that played a factor of me not saying anything in the first place just because, you know, you accusing a senator who is supposed to be an outstanding member of the community, of an act like that–of course they are going to shun you,” LaLonde said.
LaLonde is speaking out today, claiming that Dan Sutton sexually abused him when he was in high school.
He says Sutton vying for mayor of Flandreau prompted him to go public.
Coming up in Monday night’s KELOLAND News Investigation at 10, LaLonde tells his story.
We also hear from long-time Sutton attorney, Mike Butler, who disputes LaLonde’s claims.