SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office has filed rape charges against six Mitchell Legion baseball players.

Charges against the six players were filed on Thursday, according to South Dakota’s eCourt system. A news release Thursday from the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office says the Pennington County Grand Jury returned indictments for charges against six suspects:

  • 18-year-old Hudson Michael Haley: second-degree rape, aiding and abetting second-degree rape, second degree rape               
  • 19-year-old Landon William Waddell: second-degree rape, aiding and abetting second-degree rape, aiding and abetting second-degree rape
  • 17-year-old Peyton Douglas Mandel: second-degree rape, aiding and abetting second-degree rape
  • 18-year-old Lincoln Charles Bates: second-degree rape, aiding and abetting second-degree rape
  • 17-year-old Carter Ryan Miller: second-degree Rape, aiding and abetting second-degree rape
  • 17-year-old Karter Marcus Sibson: second-degree rape, aiding and abetting second-degree rape

According to court papers, the six suspects all live in Mitchell. Pennington County State’s Attorney Lara Roetzel says all six suspects were members of the Mitchell varsity Legion baseball team at the time of the alleged crimes. Court papers list two alleged victims; charges against Haley and Waddell involve each of the alleged victims.

“This is not hazing, and this was not an initiation ritual,” Roetzel said in an interview with KELOLAND News Thursday. “It’s been wildly reported as that, and this was allegedly a sexual assault and a forcible sexual assault, and I hope that the Mitchell community and the state can stop characterizing it as a, as hazing. It just really undermines the seriousness of what happened in that situation.”

Per the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office, the alleged crimes took place in Rapid City while the team was there for a June tournament. KELOLAND News reached out to Jason Christensen, president of the Mitchell Baseball Association, but as of Thursday night had not yet heard back from him.

“I do believe there are other victims of similar conduct,” Roetzel said. “And I am really hopeful that the time is now for anyone that has had this happen to them or has been involved in this activity in association with the Mitchell Legion baseball team can come forward now. It, this needs to be brought into the light so it can all be dealt with at once, so that everyone can start to move forward and heal.”

The names of minors are released because of the severity of the alleged crimes. Grace Murphy with the Davison County Sheriff’s Office said in an email Thursday afternoon to KELOLAND News that since Mandel is a juvenile, his photo would not be released. Miller and Sibson are also juveniles; Murphy said in the email “they have not been served and processed on their warrants yet.”

KELOLAND News asked Roetzel about how the alleged victims are doing.

“I think they’ve been put in a extremely difficult position, and I don’t know that the Mitchell community has been as supportive of them as I would have hoped that they would be,” she said. “I think the time is now for everyone to be very careful in not coming to judgement of the alleged victims or the alleged defendants.”

Second-degree rape is defined under South Dakota law as done via “the use of force, coercion, or threats of immediate and great bodily harm against the victim or other persons within the victim’s presence, accompanied by apparent power of execution.” The maximum penalty is 50 years in prison.

Roetzel says three other juveniles are facing charges in juvenile court. Their names are not being released. Thursday’s news release says that since “juvenile court proceedings are closed to the public, these names will not be shared, nor their cases discussed.”

She also says additional charges are possible for other adults who might have known of the alleged crimes and did not report them, which is required by law.

Mitchell Post 18’s varsity Legion baseball program had been suspended in the wake of what Christensen described in a statement to KELOLAND News on June 29 as “possible player misconduct.”

A statement released July 12 from Attorney General Marty Jackley said South Dakota’s Division of Criminal Investigation was looking into complaints concerning Mitchell Legion baseball. That same day, Christensen told KELOLAND News in a statement that Legion baseball activities were reinstated.

However, Christensen said in a new statement to KELOLAND News on July 13 that the Mitchell Baseball Association decided to end the 2023 varsity Legion baseball season because of “new information.” Asked if he could elaborate on the nature of this information, Christensen declined, citing the investigation as well as juvenile involvement.