A pediatrician who worked for Indian Health Services was suspected of preying upon young boys for decades.
He got the boot in Montana, but ended up at another IHS hospital in South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where his abuse continued for more than two decades.
On Monday, a federal judge gave Dr. Stanley Patrick Weber five consecutive life sentences for sexually abusing Native American boys in South Dakota. That’s on top of the 18-year sentence he got in Montana for the same crime.
Our KELOLAND News investigation has the story of the doctor whose career was destroyed after complaining about Weber. Plus we talked with the former tribal prosecutor who managed to connect the dots and produce one of Weber’s victims in order for him to be charged for his crimes in South Dakota.
From the moment Dr. Mark Butterbrodt met Dr. Stanley Patrick Weber in 1996, he knew something wasn’t right.
Angela Kennecke: At what point did you think he was going after children or targeting children?
Dr. Butterbrodt: Pretty early on. It was apparent to me that he had a proclivity for seeing cute boys.
Butterbrodt’s suspicions only grew stronger.
“People were whispering in my ear about him. Native people were saying, ‘We have a friend who says you have a pedophile on the staff.’ And I didn’t find out until much later that when he was transferred from Montana, the Montana people had warned Pine Ridge that this guy is bad. ‘Don’t hire him,'” Butterbrodt said.
But hire him they did. Butterbrodt took his concerns up the chain of command at IHS, but they were ignored.
“When Weber applied for re-accreditation of his medical staff privileges, he was under investigation by the South Dakota State Board of licensing at my bequest. I reported him and that got me into a lot of trouble with Indian Health Services,” Butterbrodt said.
Butterbrodt and Weber confrontation
Butterbrodt says he also got in a lot of trouble for a comment he made after a clash with Weber.
When I said, ‘Look if I wanted to intimidate Weber, I would have cut his nuts off with a rusty knife.’ Well that went right to headquarters. And the next thing I knew, I was heading up to Belcourt (ND) involuntarily. A big chunk of my salary was withheld. I was threatened with a court martial. I was threatened with losing 19 years of service, in the Indian Health Service.Dr. Mark Butterbrodt on a confrontation with Weber.
However, Butterbrodt thought the issue would be resolved when child pornography was found on Weber’s supervisor’s computer. Ronald Dean Keats worked for IHS in Aberdeen.
“He was the fellow who went out and investigated Weber when I called the FBI and the FBI said we don’t have anything because there is no victim,” Butterbrodt said.
Keats eventually pleaded guilty to possession of child porn and in 2012, he was sentenced to prison.
Weber seemed untouchable
Butterbrodt: He was made the medical director.
Kennecke: You’re banished and they made him the medical director?
Butterbrodt: That’s right. They put him in charge.
But Butterbrodt says Weber was suspended and wasn’t supposed to be seeing patients at all.
“He continued to see what people called, ‘Weber’s boys,'” Butterbrodt said.
Putting the pieces of the puzzle together
It wasn’t until several years later that former EMT and Tribal Prosecutor Elaine Yellow Horse remembered a conversation she had with Butterbrodt about Weber.
I was thinking, ‘Oh, okay–he’s a doctor and if this is really happening, someone is going to do something about it.’Former Tribal Prosecutor Elaine Yellow Horse
When she discovered that nobody had, she used her connections to locate a woman who knew who some of Weber’s young victims were.
“Me being from Pine Ridge, talking to this woman–she trusted me enough to give me the information to start everything,” Yellow Horse said.
Yellow Horse was able to do something the FBI could not–find a victim to come forward.
“But she gave me one name. Then I passed that name on to the attorney general who passed it on to the criminal investigators,” Yellow Horse said.
KELOLAND Investigates does not identify victims of sexual abuse without their consent, but Weber’s victim is a man in his 30’s in the South Dakota State Penitentiary for aggravated assault. He testified at both Weber’s trial and sentencing.
“Just can’t stop thinking about how scared (name withheld) was whenever this was happening to him,” Yellow Horse said.
Once one Weber victim was willing to talk, others also came forward.
“It was so unnecessary that these lives were ruined. There were many, many opportunities for the Indian Health Services to do the right thing; both the medical staff and the administration and they didn’t step up. They had every kind of red flag,” Butterbrodt said.
Yellow Horse’s role in piecing together the case has led her to enroll in law school at the University of South Dakota.
“I feel like I could do more with a law degree in regards to sexual assault cases on the reservations,” Yellow Horse said.
Butterbrodt still works in nursing homes and has started a foster grandparent program at Pine Ridge. Now he’s pushing for change at the organization that allowed a pedophile to sexually abuse children on two reservations for decades.
“I’m at the end of my career. I’ll say what I want! And what I’m saying is we need to start over. It would be better if IHS just folded up the tent and we tried something else,” Butterbrodt said.
National attention on the case
Butterbrodt and Yellow Horse were featured in national Frontline/Wall Street Journal documentary on Weber.
Three Native American men from Montana filed a lawsuit in January against IHS for failing to protect them from sexual abuse by Weber in the 1990s. Attorney Peter Janci, who is representing the Montana men, tells KELOLAND Investigates he has been contacted by South Dakota victims as well and it’s possible they may join in the lawsuit.
Janci says while IHS has implemented some new policies and offered counseling to victims, IHS has failed to identify all victims and understand how the abuse affected their lives.
The case is about holding the government accountable for allowing abuse of vulnerable boys by a trusted doctor. It’s a very devastating case and you (IHS) can’t move forward and create a new culture and policies and practices unless you understand severity and gravity of what went wrong.Peter Janci, Portland attorney who specializes in sex abuse cases
Indian Health Service promises reforms
A year ago, the head of IHS promised sweeping new policies and procedures to better protect patients after Weber’s case got national attention.
“I know many of you are asking how could this happen? I can assure you that abuse is not tolerated at Indian Health Service and reporting suspected abuse is encouraged,” Rear Adm. Michael Weahkee said in a YouTube video
However, a review by federal inspectors that came out in December said that the plan to protect patients from abuse has not yet been implemented at many IHS facilities and that IHS workers still fear they will be punished for reporting abuse.
Rear Adm. Michael D. Weahkee Statement on the Sentencing of Former IHS Pediatrician Stanley Patrick Weber:
The Indian Health Service appreciates that justice has been delivered today. With the long-awaited sentencing of a former IHS pediatrician, Stanley Weber, I hope that those who were harmed by him can find some measure of comfort. The actions of this individual were reprehensible, and we sincerely regret the harm caused to the children involved.
The Indian Health Service is committed to ensuring a culture of quality, leadership and accountability. We prioritize a workforce that is dedicated and trustworthy. Protecting our patients is a key element of delivering quality care. The IHS is committed to protecting our patients and preventing their harm to the best of our ability.
While we recognize that rebuilding trust will take time, we would like to make it known that if any of those harmed by Stanley Weber seek professional counseling, the Indian Health Service is ready to provide that service. We are committed to protecting your confidentiality and helping you get the services you may need. Services do not have to be at an IHS facility or with an IHS provider. You may call our confidential hotline at 1-301-443-0658 to request this service.
Click here to read the DOJ’s statement on Weber’s sentence.