Former Republican candidate Joel Koskan sentenced to prison for incest

Joel Koskan on Tuesday was sentenced to serve a decade in prison after pleading guilty to incest charges.

Joel Koskan exits a Mellette County courtroom behind his lawyer, Clint Sargent, on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022.
Austin Goss / Dakota News Now

PIERRE — Failed South Dakota Senate candidate Joel Koskan was sentenced to a decade in prison on Tuesday, April 11, on two counts of incest.

The 44-year-old Wood, South Dakota, resident appeared in a Hughes County courtroom on Tuesday for what had originally been a case involving one count of child abuse. In the hearing, Koskan pleaded guilty to two counts of incest.

Judge Margo Northrup sentenced Koskan to 10 years in prison, with no time suspended.

A woman told investigators that, from age 14 through 19, Koskan was constantly monitoring her via surveillance cameras and GPS and would "require" the girl to engage in sexual activity with him.

The case, prosecuted by the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office, was first filed in Mellette County on Nov. 3, 2022, as a result of a months-long investigation after a relative of Koskan's told investigators that Koskan would “require” her to engage in sexual activity from ages 14 through 19.

The victim first came on law enforcement’s radar in May 2022, when the victim was sharing details of Koskan’s sexual misconduct with a friend, who then reported it to authorities.


According to a probable cause document prepared by an agent of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the victim told authorities that Koskan had been “raping her since she was a young child,” and that he was continuing to monitor her via GPS and surveillance cameras after she went of to college.

Joel Koskan enters his truck outside the Mellette County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, after a court appearance for felony child abuse.
Austin Goss / Dakota News Now

“She explained that ever since she was young, Joel [Koskan] would give her very long hugs, kiss her and have her sit on his lap,” one investigator wrote in the probable cause document. “[The victim] thought that it was ‘normal things’ that families were supposed to do.”

When the victim was at a faith-based summer camp at age 14, she told camp counselors that she believed Koskan “had a sexual interest in her,” and said she felt as though he “wanted to be with her intimately.” The report to camp counselors spurred a visit from the South Dakota Department of Social Services.

Court documents say the woman told investigators that the visit from the state led to some limitation of how often Koskan would touch her, but that it didn’t last long, as Koskan would force her to straddle him after she took showers.

The Mellette County Courthouse in White River.
Austin Goss / Dakota News Now

She told police that she was 17 years old when Koskan penetrated her for the first time, and that it led to multiple instances of intercourse in various residences across South Dakota.

Roughly one month after the victim first spoke with police, in June 2022, a review of the contents of her phone was conducted, revealing messages from Koskan begging her not to continue speaking with law enforcement.

“You promised you’d never do this,” Koskan texted. “I’m begging you, you don’t want to do this.”

After the probable cause statement was submitted to the courts, Koskan was eventually charged with one count of child abuse, a Class 4 felony which carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.


On Nov. 7, a proposed plea agreement surfaced, in which Koskan’s attorneys and prosecutors had arranged a deal for Koskan to avoid prison time and avoid registering as a sex offender in exchange for a guilty plea.

The plea agreement would have given the failed South Dakota Senate candidate no jail time in exchange for a guilty plea

After months of consideration by Northrup, the proposal was eventually denied, and incest charges were brought, instead.

In the midst of the court proceedings, Koskan, a Republican, lost his 2022 campaign for a seat in the South Dakota Senate. Though his political committee has since been dissolved, he could run again in the future, as the state’s constitution only bars those convicted of “an infamous crime,” such as bribery, from holding office, unless impeached and barred by the state’s Legislature.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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