I was having a perfectly lovely day until I learned that a woman has accused one of the few new Democrats going to Pierre of acting like Donald Trump.
Newly elected state legislator and Augustana University professor Reynold Nesiba was arrested Monday afternoon and charged with sexual contact without consent.
…The 51-year-old victim told an officer that two days prior she had invited Nesiba to her home after meeting him on Facebook and in person a few times.
After sharing a kiss, Nesiba made repeated, unwanted sexual advances and refused to leave the woman’s home, she told police.
…At some point, the victim said she and Nesiba were in the kitchen when he reached into her pants and touched her vagina [Megan Raposa and Mark Walker, “Legislator, Professor Arrested on Sexual Contact Charges,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.11.14].
Along with many more sordid details about the complaint, Raposa and Walker report that Nesiba says he did not use force and he thought the accuser was “playing ‘hard to get.'”
As we chant innocent until proven guilty, let us leap ahead to the political import of this arrest, the possible conviction of a soon-to-be sitting legislator. Under SDCL 22-22-7.4, sexual contact without consent (you know, the kind of thing Donald Trump admitted doing and still got elected President) is a Class 1 misdemeanor, meaning one year in county jail and $2,000 fine, tops. The South Dakota Constitution, Article 3 Section 4, says a conviction for bribery, perjury, or other infamous crime disqualifies one from Legislative service. “Infamous crime” (written into the Fifth Amendment!) appears to be synonymous with “felony”. The crime of which Nesiba is accused does not bring anything like the right kind of fame, but by legal standards, it appears not to be “infamous”.
However, the Senate may not have to wait for proof of any crime, infamous or otherwise. If the Senate is sufficiently upset by the charges against Senator-Elect Nesiba, Article 3 Section 9 says they can refuse to seat him on January 10: “Each house shall be the judge of the election returns and qualifications of its own members.” State ex rel. Walter v. Gutzler (1977) established that each chamber of the Legislature can choose to seat elected yet unqualified members; it seems logical to conclude that the Senate could as easily choose not to seat an elected member who is accused of a non-felony crime. If the Senate chooses not to seat Nesiba, they would hand Governor Dennis Daugaard the opportunity to make his second appointment to the 2017 Legislature (he confirmed his pick of David Lust for District 34’s empty seat today) and his thirteenth in six years. This time, he’d be appointing a replacement in District 15, the strongly Democratic central Sioux Falls district.
However, given the Senator majority party’s embrace of Donald Trump’s qualifications for the Presidency of the United States, one could conclude that our Senators would not find accusations of unwanted groping worthy of unseating a mere state legislator.