Less than a week before Election Day, South Dakota state Senate candidate Joel Matthew Koskan was charged with child abuse. Court documents allege the GOP candidate groomed his adopted daughter, controlled her, and ultimately sexually assaulted her over a period of 6 years. The probable cause statement reads like a manual of sexual grooming for a child molester.
The 44-year-old, three-time Republican candidate Koskan is out on a $100,000 bond, having paid out $10,000 in cash. As the Dakota Free Press reports, about a week before the charges were made public, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee sent Koskan $10,000. There is no evidence that any of this money has been used for anything at this point, and Koskan seems to have slowed his campaign spending considerably in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the charges.
The details of the charges are intense. Koskan’s accuser says he began grooming her at a young age with unhealthy performative affectionate displays that made her uncomfortable. After she discussed the interactions at a “faith-based” summer sleep-away camp, counselors at the camp contacted the Department of Social Services at that time. Koskan’s adopted daughter was 14 years old at that time and chose not to cooperate, saying she feared being “without a family again.”
According to the statement, the teenager was roundly criticized by Koskan’s wife for reporting her adoptive father, and while Joel Koskan kept a distance from her for about a year or so, the victim claims the abuse started up again. This time, he added video surveillance to her room and began an aggressive abuser’s set of habits. This included forcing her to only wear nightgowns with no undergarments and penetrating her with fingers and inevitably with his penis. The accusations also include a steady pattern of control being exerted over the accuser, including tracking her with GPS, an intense regimen of phone calls, and physical assault as a result.
The investigation has gone on since May, and Koskan was arrested and charged with one count of felony child abuse for allegedly exposing a minor to a foreseeable harm. The charge is a Class 4 felony, bringing with it a maximum of 10 years in prison. However, according to the Argus Leader, a proposed plea deal filed on Nov. 7 would have “all jail and prison time suspended for Koskan.” The deal would include Koskan undergoing a “psycho-sexual assessment,” though the details of what that assessment may entail is unknown, and paying for the accuser’s therapy sessions if she chooses to attend therapy, as well as:
- Koskan will continue paying the victim's course of study, including any tuition, fees, books and room/board at an accredited academic institution. The obligation will cease upon the victim's graduation or until she reaches the age of 22, whichever comes first, according to court documents.
- A 2017 Chevy Malibu in the victim's possession provided by Koskan will be signed over to her guaranteeing her continued use of the vehicle.
- Koskan will continue to provide health, eye and dental insurance for the victim until she graduates or reaches the age of 22, whichever comes first, according to court documents.
- Koskan will have no contact, either by direct or indirect means, except as authorized by the court with the victim.
Koskan, his attorney, and the deputy attorney general’s names are signed to the plea deal document that was dated to the first week of September. KEVN reports that the agreement attorney with the South Dakota Attorney General’s office, Brent Kempema, told Sixth Circuit Judge Margo Northup that his office’s discussions with the accuser had led the state to understand “that her desired outcome of the case would ultimately almost be a non-prosecution.” Kempema went on to say, “She would like to come to a resolution on this matter that would address her primary concern, that the defendant receives help for any issues he may have.”
Koskan’s accuser is now 20 years old and what she believes is the best thing for her going forward is something only she can decide. The only aspect of this that gives me pause is that Koskan’s side of the plea deal allows him to deny that any sexual assault occurred during the abuse, while allowing for “some responsibility for his actions.” Judge Northrup, who must sign off on the agreement, told lawyers for both sides that she will consider the plea deal over the next month. The deal, as it sits now, would allow Koskan to plea to a charge that does not require him to register as a sex offender.
Koskan never pulled out of the race, and had signed off on a plea deal admitting to being guilty of child abuse. He did not pull out of the race even after he was charged with the crime and that crime became public. There is something more, in my opinion, that needs to be done to protect the community from a man who is accused of being a true predator. South Dakota’s recently impeached Republican Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg received similarly light plea deal considerations for having killed a man with his car in September 2020.
The only good news here is Koskan lost his race to Democratic Rep. Shawn Bordeaux in one of the few blue areas of South Dakota, receiving 41.74% of the vote. This was the least number of votes Koskan received in his three attempts at elected office—so, that’s something? I guess these GOP voters are totally cool with actual “grooming” and very real child sexual abuse if the candidate is a Republican. Pretty gross and the hypocrisy isn’t simply terrible—it shows the extent of the right’s debased morality.
Judge Northrup’s decision on the plea deal is set for a Dec. 12 court appearance.
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