It was a story that headlined our evening newscasts for weeks in 2007. An 18-year-old page accused then-Democratic State Senator Dan Sutton of molesting him.
At the time, the Senate held hearings and voted to formally reprimand Sutton, but he was not kicked out of office and never criminally charged.
Monday night Dan Sutton took office as the mayor of Flandreau, but along with his new position have come new accusations of sexual abuse, which allegedly occurred more than two decades ago.
Nate LaLonde describes himself as a difficult kid in high school, who craved the attention he got from his drum line instructor and substitute teacher, Dan Sutton .
“Sometimes he’d write me hall passes so I could just get out of class and go hang out with him,” LaLonde said.
LaLonde says Sutton gave him a key to his house, allowed him to drink alcohol out of the fridge and kept a stocked candy drawer. He says he ended up living with Sutton for a time in his early teens.
“Dan gave me some kind of attention that I didn’t get anywhere else. So I felt like he actually cared about me. And when this stuff started to happen, I just thought, this is my price to pay for having to be that way. I blamed myself,” LaLonde said.
LaLonde described the abuse he says he endured while staying in Sutton’s home.
“Many times at night, I’d wake up and he’d be obviously over top of me and his hands would be down my pants touching my genitals.”Nate LaLonde
LaLonde’s accusations are similar to those made by legislative page Austin Wiese in 2006, who shared a hotel room with Sutton in Pierre.
2007 Senate Hearing Testimony:
Austin Wiese: He proceeded to move his hands down.
Attorney Jim McMahon: Where did he place his hand?
Wiese: He put his hand on my penis.
Attorney Mike Butler: Did you do it?
Dan Sutton: I did not do what Austin Wiese is claiming. I did nothing. I have too much to risk with my career.
We wanted to ask Flandreau’s mayor-elect about the new allegations leveled against him by LaLonde. KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke stopped by his real estate business in Flandreau.
Kennecke: Is Dan Sutton here?
Receptionist: No he’s not.
Following our attempts to track Sutton down in Flandreau, his long-time attorney, who represented him during the legislative hearings and a subsequent civil lawsuit, agreed to address the claims.
Kennecke: Why isn’t Dan Sutton talking to me today?
Butler: Why would anyone want to sit here and endure further humilation? I think that if anybody would sit here and allow those questions to be answer of them, after they have been exonerated, cleared and never charged would just have to love punishment.
Kennecke: But there’s a difference between not being charged and exonerated. He still was censured.
Butler: I consider it being exonerated because at that time as you’ll recall the investigation was extremely public.
While the Senate conducted its hearing, Attorney General Larry Long was considering potential criminal charges, but ultimately decided there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Sutton.
During that time, LaLonde was interviewed by the Division of Criminal Investigation.
Kennecke: The DCI did talk to you. What did you tell them at the time?
LaLonde: I wasn’t ready to talk about what happened to me. I covered for him, which I never should have done.
DCI reports are not public record. However, as Sutton’s attorney, Butler has a copy of what LaLonde told investigators at the time. Butler tells KELOLAND Investigates he legally can’t allow us see the report, but he did read a portion of it out loud.
“At no time did LaLonde ever recall Sutton groping him or touching him under his clothing or touching his penis. LaLonde could not indicate any skin-to-skin contact. At no time did Sutton ever request him to have sex or proposition him. In this report he also indicates he may have dreamt some things up. He described them as maybe he had weird dreams.”Attorney Mike Butler reads from 2007 DCI Report.
“Stuff like that wasn’t supposed to happen to guys like us,” LaLonde said.
LaLonde says instead of facing the truth, he went into the military and turned to drugs and alcohol.
“You try to bury that so deep. where you’ll never even think about it at all,” LaLonde said.
“Now if his story has changed 14 years later, so when was he lying? Was he lying then or is he lying now?” Butler said.
“I didn’t do the right thing back there and more people got hurt and that bothers me to this day,” LaLonde said.
Following Sutton’s 2007 censure, Austin Wiese filed a civil suit against Sutton. It was settled in 2010 and dismissed with prejudice. One of the stipulations for dismissal was a statement from Sutton to Wiese:
Dan Sutton’s public apology to Austin Wiese in 2010, as part of settlement of civil suit.
“Mr. Wiese: I apologize for any problems, discomfort, embarrassment this has caused you.”
Kennecke: Is Dan Sutton a pedophile?
Butler: (Laughs) No.
“When he decided to run for mayor, that’s when I decided to act. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt by him. I don’t want any more kids; young men to get molested by him–to grow up with the same problems that I have and Austin has and Brandon has,” LaLonde said.
Brandon is Brandon Carr who was on the list to testify against Sutton at the 2007 legislative hearing, but was never called. Carr claims he was molested by Sutton on a band trip in high school.
I spoke with both Carr and Wiese on the phone and by email for this story. They both now live out of state. Both men told me what happened to them is too painful of a wound to open up by doing on-camera interviews, but they want to support LaLonde and believe his claims.
LaLonde has started a Facebook support group for childhood victims of sexual abuse called, “Victims of Sexual Assault Anonymous”