Judge rejects Koskan plea agreement in felony child abuse case

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

Joel Koskan, a candidate for the South Dakota Senate from District 26, was charged Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, with a child abuse charge that alleges sexual misconduct against a family member.
Screenshot / Koskan for District 26

WHITE RIVER, S.D. — A failed South Dakota Senate candidate accused of sexually assaulting an underage relative has had a plea agreement that would have spared him jail time denied by a judge.

Sixth Circuit Judge Margo Northrup on Monday rejected a plea agreement in the case of Joel Koskan, of Wood, who currently faces one count of felony child abuse.

The charge stems from May 6, 2022, when a retired DCI agent contacted county and state investigators seeking assistance in a sexual assault investigation involving a 19-year-old woman who is related to Koskan. According to the retired agent, the woman disclosed that Koskan had been “raping her since she was a young child.”

Court documents say the victim told authorities that Koskan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with her for years and, as she got older, would “require” her to have sex with him. From ages 14-19, she accused Koskan of using technology to track her movement and activity, including via the use of surveillance cameras installed in her Watertown apartment.

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.

In June, authorities conducted a review of Koskan’s phone, which court documents say turned up communication between Koskan and the relative in which he told her “you don’t want to do this,” in response to the relative’s police report.


In Koskan’s initial hearing in Mellette County on Nov. 7, 2022, the defense brought forth a proposed plea agreement that would have seen Koskan plead guilty to the felony charge, but would suspend all jail time and avoid the requirement for Koskan to register as a sex offender.

When presented with the proposal, which prosecutors agreed with, Northrup asked for more time to consider the proposal. After a Dec. 12, 2022, hearing was postponed, Northrup rejected it during Monday’s arraignment.

Joel Koskan exits a Mellette County courtroom behind his lawyer, Clint Sargent, on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. He's charged with felony child abuse after a family member accused him of molesting her over a course of five years.
Austin Goss / Dakota News Now

During the hearing, Northrup barred Koskan from having contact with anyone under 18 years old, including his children. He was previously allowed to continue living in his Wood home with his family.

With no plea agreement reached, Koskan and his attorney, Clint Sargent, are left with the option to take it to trial — which Northrup indicated could take place in August or September — or to plead guilty or nolo contendere, meaning he is not admitting guilt but is stating that he will offer no defense.

Though prosecutors indicated that more charges could be filed, Koskan’s current charge could result in a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. He’s currently free on a $10,000 bond.

Future hearings have yet to be set.

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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