RAPID CITY, S.D. - There will be no charges against anyone in the death of Robert "Boo" Many Horses.
After an investigation by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, in cooperation with the FBI, it was determined that no charges would be filed against four individuals, said U.S. Attorney Ted McBride. In fact, there will be no charges coming from the state either. Dan Todd, Walworth County states attorney, said the state would not pursue any further charges against four teen-agers involved in the incident.
"The state has no intentions of pursuing the matter further," Todd said. He added that the federal investigation turned up no new evidence or information that would warrant any charges.
The teen-agers were initially charged by the state for manslaughter and aggravated assault in connection with Many Horses' death. A Circuit judge dropped the charges because of the lack of evidence. Todd said to pursue the case further would have the same result.
The recent investigation was opened because of some allegations that Many Horses may have been the victim of a hate crime. At a U.S. Civil Rights Commission forum held in Rapid City in December 1999, Commission Chairwoman Frances Berry asked States Attorney Todd if something could be proven against the four. At the time, Todd said a few misdemeanors could be proved, but added the state took its best shot.
"The federal investigation into this incident was careful, thorough and independent," McBride said in a prepared statement. "All known avenues of the investigation were explored."
He said the FBI obtained statements from the four who were charged, explored medical records and opinions and reviewed allegations the four had previously been hostile toward American Indians.
To prove a hate crime occurred, the government had to prove Many Horses' death was the result of racial animosity. It would also have to prove Many Horses was deprived of his right to attend public school, be employed, serve as a juror or use a public facility, such as a movie theatre or restaurant.
Many Horses' body was found in a garbage container in a alley in Mobridge June 30, 1999. The autopsy indicated he died of alcohol poisoning. Blood toxin levels were listed as .446, considered to be lethal. It takes .10 to be legally intoxicated in South Dakota.
Magistrate Judge Tony Portra of Aberdeen dismissed the state's charges against the four teen-agers in October 1999. He said the evidence against Layne Gisi, 19, Jody Larson, 19, Ryan Goehring, 16, and Joy Lynn Hahne, 17, was insufficient to prove the charges brought against them.
"The court wishes to make it clear that it does not decide at this time that no offense has been committed by these defendants, only that the elements of the offenses charged have not been met," Portra said.
Many Horses, who suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, was drinking with the four the night he died. Statements to investigators indicated they had been drinking in a field outside of town where they drank and listened to music. Many Horses is said to have passed out, the group drove back to town where they put him in the garbage can, more as a joke, they told the investigators.
The Many Horses case is one of those used as evidence by the state Advisory Committee on Civil Rights to ask the U.S. Commission to conduct a forum in the state. The forum gathered information that would provide a link to inequality in the justice system in South Dakota for American Indians.
McBride said the federal investigation is over. The U.S. Justice Department investigations covered civil rights statutes, the only areas where the federal government had jurisdiction in the case.