S.D. Caps Payday Loan Interest Rates at 36%

     PIERRE, S.D. (CN) — South Dakota became the most recent state to crack down on the short-term loan industry by capping interest rates for the lenders at 36 percent.     Initiated Measure 21 won the support of 72 percent of voters despite outcry from short-term lenders in the state, who claimed the true purpose of the initiative was to drive them out of business.     Payday lenders sued the state’s attorney general, Marty Jackley, for not including the possibility of the lenders going belly up in his description of the measure for voters.     The state’s Supreme Court upheld Jackley’s ballot explanation.     In the days leading up to the election, a scare tactic campaign insinuating that the measure was part of President Barack Obama’s personal “agenda” fell flat in the consistently red state.     The initiative’s sponsor, Democrat Steve Hildebrand, was deputy national campaign director for the president in 2008.     The state’s Republican governor, Dennis Daugaard, was among those who voted in favor of the measure.

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South Dakota Enacts Publicly Funded Elections

     PIERRE, S.D. (CN) — While the outcome of the presidential race kept most Americans enraptured Tuesday night, South Dakota quietly passed a ballot measure that will allow for publicly funded elections in the state.     Initiated Measure 22, the South Dakota Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act, squeaked into law with a mere 52 percent majority.     The Act, meant to lessen the influence of “big money” on elections, sets up a tax-funded “democracy credit” system through which registered voters each receive two $50 “credits” to support the political candidate of their choice.     The Act also limits donation amounts from single donors, narrows the definition of what can be considered a “campaign expenditure,” and sets up an ethics board to oversee the program.     The measure has attracted attention from outside the state, including funding from billionaire Charles Koch who attempted to block it.

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Credit Union Blabs Woman’s Financial Woes

     GREGORY, S.D. (CN) — A South Dakota woman claims in court that her entire community knows about her financial troubles because a credit union gave copies of her credit report to a class of 26 high school students.     Plaintiff Terri McFayden says she contacted the Consumer’s Federal Credit Union to see if she and her husband could take out a small loan to cover her two young children’s medical bills.     After reviewing her credit, the company’s CEO and President, Sara Zimbelman, told McFayden she did not qualify for a loan, McFayden claims.     Just two days after Zembelman turned McFayden down for a loan, she shared her credit report with a class of 26 high school students, according to the complaint, which was filed Thursday in federal court.     Although the credit report was “partially redacted,” McFayden’s name, address, partial Social Security number and a “substantial amount of credit information” was still visible on the report, McFayden says.     After handing out the copies, Zembelman allegedly made “derogatory remarks” about McFayden’s credit history.     McFayden claims she has experienced “extreme emotional distress as a result of the widespread knowledge throughout her community regarding her private information and financial struggles.”     She is suing for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She also seeks punitive damages.     McFayden is represented by Sharla Svennes of Myers Billion LLP in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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Justices Take Up Sentence-Reduction Case

     (CN) — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether imposition of a harsh sentence for a felony allows the court to use a substantial sentencing reduction on related charges.     U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett sentenced Levon Dean Jr. to 400 months incarceration after a jury convicted him on robbery and firearms charges.     The convictions stemmed from the events of April 15, 2013. Dean and his brother agreed to help a friend recover an alleged $400 debt from a man known in court documents as “J.R.” The armed brothers broke into and ransacked J.R.’s hotel room, taking any drugs and money they found, according to court documents.     J.R. was in the room with a prostitute that night, intending to trade methamphetamine for sex. Because of this transaction, the district court attached Hobbs Act violations to the charges, claiming the robbery had interfered with “interstate commerce.”     The hotel was located in Sioux City, which straddles the border of Iowa and Nebraska, and J.R. had brought drugs over the border from Iowa to pay the prostitute, according to the Eight Circuit’s summary of the case.     Dean’s sentence was broken down to a mandatory minimum of 30 years incarceration for the Hobbs Act violations, with another three years added for the remaining charges.     Judge Bennett did grant Dean a downward variance — the sentencing range for the related charges was about seven to nine years. Still, Dean requested a sentence of a single day for the remaining crimes, given the harshness of the Hobbs Act sentencing.     Judge Bennett admitted he would have liked to grant the request, but he did not believe he had jurisdiction to do so, according to court documents.     In his decision, Bennett depended on United States v. Hatcher, a 2007 ruling in which the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court that had varied downward to a one-day sentence for remaining charges after a mandatory penalty of 300 months had been imposed.     When Dean appealed, the Eighth Circuit agreed with the district judge’s reasoning.     “We see no meaningful difference between the situation in Hatcher and what Levon [Dean] requested in this case,” U.S. Circuit Judge Clarence Beam wrote for a three-judge panel in December 2015. “Accordingly, the district court correctly noted his (sic) inability to sentence Levon as requested.”     After the Eighth Circuit denied a rehearing on the matter, Dean petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to look at his case, claiming that the Eighth Circuit ruled differently in a later, similar appeal, and that the 10th Circuit also had ruled differently on the issue.     “[B]y failing to consider the sentences imposed on the [Hobbs Act] charges, a court is essentially barred from considering an entire category of information about a defendant and risks contravening express Congressional intent,” Dean argued through his attorney, Alan Stoler, in his petition for a writ of certiorari.     As is customary, SCOTUS offered no statement on its decision to take up the case.

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Weld Touts Libertarian Ideals in South Dakota

     SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Libertarian vice presidential nominee Bill Weld told potential voters Wednesday morning that he and Gary Johnson had the “best ticket” for the presidential race this year.     His visit to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, came after weeks of Johnson/Weld billboards lining the city’s streets, perhaps hoping to cash in on the Republican state’s disenchantment with Donald Trump’s campaign.     Both the state’s Republican governor Dennis Daugaard and one of its Republican U.S. Senators, John Thune, called for Trump to withdraw from the race after the tape of his lurid conversation about women hit the media.     The Monday after the news broke, a prominent billboard appeared on a busy street in Sioux Falls featuring Gary Johnson and Bill Weld with two words printed across the bottom: “Not Trump.”     On Wednesday, Weld was not hesitant to speak about the other presidential candidates.     He called Hillary Clinton, who he worked with on investigating the Watergate scandal in 1973, “well-qualified” to be president. “In her eight years as a Senator, she was known for being well-briefed and well-prepared, and in her four years as Secretary of State,” he said. “But she’s a little bit too inclined to military intervention on behalf of the U.S. for Gary’s taste and my taste … And she will spend a lot of money, while Gary and I wouldn’t. So I don’t feel ‘guilty’ that we’re running against the Democratic ticket.”     Weld did not talk about winning the race or becoming the next president, but instead spoke in terms of grabbing a bigger piece of the “pie” for the third party.     “We sort of think that if we got to say, 20 percent in the polls at any time in October, we could be dangerous because we do have some good arguments for our candidacy,” he said. “We are fiscally responsible and conservative.”     “Hillary Rodham is an old friend of mine,” he continued, “but nobody would really convincingly argue these days that the Democratic Party in Washington is fiscally responsible — they say everything is going to be free. There’s no such thing as free money.”     He cautioned that the current spending will “hollow out” the U.S. economy. “There’s no such thing as government money,” Weld said. “There’s only taxpayer money.”     Weld also claimed the Libertarian ticket is on the “right side” of social issues.     “We’re inclusive,” he said.     He cited his own attitudes on “gay marriage” as being ahead of the curve in the 90s, while Gary Johnson was in favor of legalizing marijuana before public opinion began to shift in that direction.     He spoke of his running mate as a “kindred spirit.”     “We certainly had the same view about the size of government, the waste of taxpayer money, and the role of government,” he said.     He referred to Johnson and himself as “Jeffersonian” for their adherence to Thomas Jefferson’s belief that, “That government is best that governs least.”     Nor was he bashful about denigrating Donald Trump’s campaign. “Mr. Trump I consider a positive danger to the United States, so I don’t mind getting out there and having people know that,” he said.     “Mr. Trump’s plan to round up 11 million people in the middle of the night and deport them all reminded me of Anne Frank, hiding in the attic, when Hitler’s Nazis were trying to find all the Jews and do worse than deport them,” he added. “And it’s the fear, and living in the shadows, that’s bad for the United States.”     He followed up by touting the Libertarian ticket’s pro-immigration stance, calling for an increase in work visas, especially in states that depend on immigrant labor in agricultural and construction jobs.     He also proposed setting up a dedicated task force to closely investigate suspected terrorists.     Any suspected terrorist who was not indicted within six months of opening an investigation would be removed from the “watch list,” he said.     “It doesn’t sound Libertarian because it’s a task force and it’s targeting people, but it’s targeting terrorists,” he said. “It’s not using the Patriot Act to go around to the local library and see who’s taking out books on war.”     South Dakota is home to about 1,500 registered Libertarian voters, and 114,000 independents out of 535,000 voters total.     The state has three electoral votes in presidential elections.     Election predictor FiveThirtyEight.com estimates that Gary Johnson will attain 6 percent of the popular vote nationwide in November. The same site predicts Trump has an 82 percent chance of winning South Dakota.

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Charges Against Reporter at Pipeline Protest Dropped

     MANDAN, N.D. (CN) — A state judge dismissed criminal trespass and riot charges against Democracy Now reporter Amy Goodman for her work covering the ongoing protest against pipeline construction in North Dakota.     The charges stem from Goodman’s presence at the protest site on Sept. 3, where she filmed Dakota Access pipeline security officers pepper-spraying protesters.     Major media outlets, including CNN, NPR and CBS, picked up the video, and Democracy Now estimates it has been viewed at least 14 million times.     North Dakota State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson charged Goodman with criminal trespass on Sept. 8. Erickson later withdrew that charge and replaced it with a charge of engaging in a riot.     North Dakota district Judge John Grinsteiner of Morton County refused to find probable cause for the charge and dismissed the case Monday.     “This is a complete vindication of my right as a journalist to cover the attack on the protesters, and of the public’s right to know what is happening with the Dakota Access pipeline,” Goodman said on the Democracy Now website Monday. “We will continue to report on this epic struggle of Native Americans and their non-Native allies taking on the fossil fuel industry and an increasingly militarized police in this time when climate change threatens the planet.”     Dozens of protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Mandan, N.D., cheered Goodman’s attorney, Thomas Dickson, as he announced the dismissal of charges.     Shouts of, “We love you, sister,” and “Thank you, Amy!” can be heard on a video of the announcement on the Democracy Now website.     “When the prosecutor misguidedly decided to file charges against Amy Goodman, he decided to go after the wrong person,” a second attorney, Reed Brody, said. “Amy Goodman is not intimidated.”     “The state’s attorney was attempting to stop journalism,” Goodman added. “The state’s attorney must respect freedom of the press and the First Amendment.”     The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota has spearheaded ongoing protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, which began construction in the state over the summer.     Since then, the protesters’ “spirit camps” have swelled to thousands of members, drawing protesters from over 200 different Native tribes across the U.S., Canada and Latin America.     The protesters claim the pipeline will pollute drinking water and destroy significant cultural sites.     In early September, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ruled in the District of Columbia that Dakota Access could continue work on the pipeline despite tribal protests, and an appeals court upheld the ruling earlier this month.     However, the Department of Justice has barred construction of the pipeline within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe, a major source of drinking water for the state’s residents, pending further investigation.     According to Goodman, over 140 people have been arrested in connection with the protests.     The Green Party’s presidential candidate, Jill Stein, was charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief for allegedly spray-painting pipeline construction equipment in September. And actor Shaileen Woodley, best known for her role in the “Divergent” movies, was charged with criminal trespass and engaging in a riot for participating in the protests.     The Dakota Access Pipeline is set to run a 1,172-mile route from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to a transfer station in Illinois, crossing South Dakota and Iowa on the way.

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Judge Steps In to Save|650 Starving Horses

     LANTRY, S.D. (CN) — A judge has stepped in to aid hundreds of horses on a wild horse sanctuary, ordering their care handed temporarily over to two South Dakota counties, after a veterinarian confirmed shocking documentation of neglect.     The Oct. 11 order came two weeks after former employee Colleen Burns drew public attention to the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros by releasing 16 pages of photos, video stills and journal entries detailing the deaths of at least 30 horses on the ranch, many of whom died of starvation this summer.     The society’s president, Karen Sussman, said in an email to “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see,” regarding Burns’ depiction of the ranch.     But veterinarian Dr. Marc Hammrich, who investigated the ranch after receiving a complaint from Burns, categorized the horses as “neglected” in his Sept. 15 Animal Welfare Investigation Report, which was included in court documents released Tuesday.     “Immediately apparent was the lack of feed in the pen and the majority of the horses nosing through the dried manure looking for remaining hay to eat from the last feeding which was scant to nonexistent,” he wrote.     He found similar conditions in all four of the ranch’s herds, in one case noting that horses were “searching the ground for feed and in some cases eating manure.”     He came across a dead horse carcass in one pasture, and a burial pit containing at least 25 carcasses in various states of decay. Hammrich estimated that 10 percent of the ranch’s horses would not survive the winter without intervention.     Ziebach County Judge Jerome Eckrich’s 2-page impoundment order on Tuesday adopts the conditions set forth in an agreement between the county attorneys for Ziebach and Dewey counties, where the ranch is, and Sussman.     Although the 650 horses will stay on the ranch, the Ziebach and Dewey county sheriffs will oversee their care temporarily, according to the Joint Motion for Voluntary Impoundment.     However, the sheriffs require that alternative arrangements be made before winter.     “I have dedicated my life, my fortune, and my reputation to the protection of wild horses throughout the United States,” Sussman said in a statement. “More than once in my 30 years with the organization, I have personally financed our activities to feed, study, care for and protect these beautiful animals. I have dedicated the majority of my time freely, only rarely collecting a salary, and selling my personal property to provide much needed funds to the organization for hay. To accuse me of cruelty or disinterest of these wild horses, that I have dedicated my life to protecting, is both outrageous and preposterous.”     Sussman can get the horses back if she can produce a viable plan for providing adequate food, shelter and veterinary care for the next 18 months. In addition, she must provide a specific “end of life plan” for horses suffering from age, injuries or sickness.          “We have been developing an ongoing management plan which includes downsizing our herds, potential purchase of a larger property to reduce our costs of ever rising hay prices, and a long-range vision for our organization,” Sussman said.     Sussman’s plan, which must include provisions for reimbursing the county for the horses’ care, is due Oct. 27.     In the meantime, a veterinarian will inspect the horses and divide them into three groups: those that are healthy enough to survive the winter with adequate food and care, those that will require special attention to survive the winter, and those that are unlikely to survive the winter and should be euthanized.     The motion encourages Sussman to make arrangements for some of the horses to be adopted.     Any horses not adopted or returned to Sussman by Dec. 1 will be sold at a public auction.

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Chelsea Clinton Gets Conversational in S.D.

     SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Despite the measly three electoral votes at stake in South Dakota, the Clintons have twice appeared to connect with Democrats in the state this election season.     The long line of potential voters, snaking through various hallways inside the campus building where Chelsea Clinton was set to speak on behalf of her mother’s campaign Wednesday night, was incongruous with the relatively uncrowded parking lot outside.     This may be because about half of those gathered in and around the mid-size classroom hosting Chelsea were college students from Augustana University, the hosting venue, and other nearby schools.     While not running quite as late as her father during his visit to Sioux Falls, Chelsea still arrived onstage about half an hour behind schedule. When she took the microphone, she spoke in a conversational tone.     “Oh, thank you for the ‘Vote for Chelsea’s Mom,’ sign,” she began, noticing a homemade sign held by an audience member.     “I think this is the most important presidential election of my lifetime,” she continued. “It’s the first presidential election that I am voting in as a mom — and I didn’t know I could care more about politics and running for political office until I became a parent and found, I could.”     The audience chuckled when she added, “Because I grew up spending a lot of time at events like this.” She talked about holding up signs at rallies, waving an American flag at events as a little girl, and volunteering at her dad’s campaign office stuffing envelopes and making phone calls when he ran for governor in Arkansas.     “And yet, even if I weren’t a parent, I would think this is the most important presidential election of my lifetime,” she said. “Because I worry that everything I care most about is at risk … I worry that our core values as a country are at risk.”     She touched on Hillary’s support for raising the minimum wage, closing the wage gap between men and women and between the able-bodied and the disabled, and climate change.     Fitting the venue, she spent the most time touting her mother’s plan for financing college, which includes making college tuition free for families who make less than $125,000 annually, counting years spent in public service as part of loan repayment, making community colleges tuition-free and locking in federal student loans at the lowest possible interest rates, “because the federal government should not be in the business of making a profit off of students.”     “This is deeply personal to my mom, because she was able to go to law school only through a work-study program and because she got a lot of loans,” Chelsea said. “And I remember the day she paid off those law-school loans when I was a little girl, and how proud she was.”     Circling back to the subject of her children, she said it’s “not just rhetorical” when she talks about what children are picking up from this election.     She told a story about a mother she met on the campaign trail who had immigrated from Guatemala with her son, who is now in school, when he was a baby. “In his middle school, in less than two weeks, he heard three kids say either, ‘Go back to Mexico,’ or ‘I can’t wait till we can build a wall to keep people like you out.’”     “I never thought that I would see in my lifetime the normalization of hate speech,” she said. “Donald Trump and his campaign [are] fueling this.”     She then opened the floor up for questions, comments, suggestions and “parenting advice.”     Attendees raised the issues of human trafficking and drug addiction in South Dakota, which has a disproportionate effect on the Native American population; the difficulty of being part of the national discussion about race in a state with limited ethnic diversity; and the problem of homelessness among veterans.     But the most intense moment came when a female college student asked Chelsea about improving contraceptive access.     South Dakota is home to just one Planned Parenthood clinic, which charges for contraception and other services, according to the student.     “I’m pro-choice,” the student said, “like everybody else should be—”     An audible gasp arose from the audience, along with some nervous laughter. The student, flustered, started to squeak, “I’m sorry—”     “No, don’t apologize for your opinion,” Chelsea said firmly. “That’s something that women, particularly women and young girls, do too often.”     Chelsea said this was the first time she had been asked about contraception this election cycle.     She pushed for federal funding of Planned Parenthood and the expansion of Medicaid, which could cover contraception for people on limited incomes. She added that many of the 9 percent who remain uninsured in the country live in states that have not accepted federal funding for Medicaid expansion.     “I’m not naming any names,” she said, referencing South Dakota’s refusal to take the additional funds.     Chelsea ended her 45-minute appearance by encouraging attendees to register to vote, and to vote early.     Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary over Senator Bernie Sanders by just two percentage points this year. She also took the state in the 2008 primary against President Barack Obama.     But South Dakota has not gone to a Democratic candidate for president since 1964.     Forecasters from the New York Times and FiveThirtyEight.com estimate Clinton’s likelihood of winning South Dakota at 3 to 8 percent.     

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Private Horse Sanctuary Became Starvation Zone

     LANTRY, S.D. (CN) — With another harsh South Dakota winter just around the corner, a former employee at a wild horse sanctuary has released documentation of emaciated and dead horses at the ranch, hoping to get help for the others before the cold sets in.     “When I began working for and living on the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros ranch in April of 2015, I was full of hope and joy,” Colleen Burns wrote in a statement accompanying her documentation.     “I was working my dream job and able to apply my life and professional skills to help wild horses for an organization that has been saving them since 1960. … It was a dream … a dream that turned into the most horrific of nightmares.”     Burns says that since June more than 30 horses have died of starvation, lack of veterinary care and other causes at the ranch.     She released her documentation of the deaths to the public and to The Animal Legal Defense Fund late last week.     (Editor’s Warning). The document is rife with harrowing photos of horses whose every rib is visible, hipbones jutting sharply out of flanks. One photo depicts a horse with a gruesome open wound on its neck.     NBC got wind of the documents early, running a story on Saturday. By Monday this week, the story had spread across South Dakota newspapers, into Iowa, and onto horse enthusiast websites, many of which reprinted the less-graphic of the troubling photos.     Burns’ fears about how the horses will fare in the coming winter are understandable. In 2013, an October winter storm killed up to 30,000 cattle in South Dakota, according to Weather.com.     When neither the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros president Karen Sussman or its board of directors heeded her concerns about the horses, Burns said, she began creating her 16-page document of photos, journal entries and stills from videos.     Five days after she posted her document to a public Google page, the society (ISPMB) updated its homepage with a flood of images dated Oct. 3. These images show clean, healthy and placid-looking horses surrounded by mounds of hay.     The number of horses at the ISPMB ranch has risen from 260 to 650 in the 16 years that it has been studying wild herds, according to the society’s website. Burns says the ranch does not have the money to adequately feed them all, nor enough grass on its 680 acres to support their grazing.     On Monday, Dewey County Sheriff’s Department announced on its Facebook page that it is investigating. Dewey County Sheriff Les Mayer has been visiting daily since Burns contacted the state veterinarian on Sept. 15, according to Burns’ documentation.     Mayer told the Rapid City Journal that Sussman must feed the horses daily or risk citation or arrest. The sheriff said she has complied.     The ranch has been in dire financial straits for years. As early as September 2011, Sussman issued a plea on the society’s website for help feeding the horses.     “Today, I am writing to ask for your help,” she wrote. “The severity and length of the economic downturn has hit charities hard and we are facing the upcoming winter without enough funding to purchase enough hay.”     Sussman is facing grand theft charges in nearby Perkins County, accused of writing a bad check for more than $9,000 to pay for hay, according to the Rapid City Journal.     The society has been sued at least four times in three South Dakota counties since 2015, accused of writing bad checks, not paying for hay or failing to repay loans, according to the Courthouse News database. The claims total more than $160,000.     Burns says food for the horses was delivered sporadically over the summer, and that horses were being fed only once a week by the end of August.     Susan Watt, director of the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, has stepped in to help with $6,000 worth of donated hay, enough to feed the herds for three days, according to The Rapid City Journal.     The Dewey County Sheriff’s Department also is setting up a fund to help pay for hay for the troubled horses.     Burns says Sussman fired her after she released the documents. She said their relationship had been deteriorating since the beginning of September.     “I pray that the remaining horses are appropriately cared for and that the ISPMB president Karen A. Sussman and board of directors are forced to provide the necessary veterinarian care to those currently suffering and to ensure they have hay every day,” Burns says in the closing of her document. “If that happens, all of my pain will have been in the name of the wild horses, especially the ones who starved to death.”     The ISPMB, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in north central South Dakota, claims on its website to be “a leader in the field of wild horse and burro protection and preservation.”     Its founder, Velma Johnston, was instrumental in passing federal legislation in 1971 that protected wild horses on public land, according to its website. Today, the society focuses on the study of wild horses and manages four herds. It aims to share its findings with the Bureau of Land Management for better wild horse management nationwide, the website says.     Sussman did not respond to an emailed request for comment.     Those interested in contributing funds, hay or pasture space for the horses can call Susan Watt at 605-745-7494, email iram@gwtc.net or contact the Dewey County Sheriff’s Department.

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