Elisa Sand gets the story on former Division of Criminal Investigation agent Mark Black’s changing story in the seamy Schwab-Taliaferro-Mette case. Black led a vigorous investigation against Shirley Schwab and Brandon Taliaferro to support the state’s effort to persecute Schwab and Taliaferro for trying to help the abused foster children of convicted rapist Richard Mette. Black conducted hostile interrogations of child witnesses. As recently as May 2014, Black appears to have continued to blame Schwab for ruining his career with DCI, which ended last year shortly after Schwab filed a perjury complaint against Black and after Black’s wife filed for a protection order based on allegations of erratic and violent behavior (both complaints were subsequently rejected).
Now Black tells Elisa Sand that if he had known the state was offering Richard Mette’s wife Wendy Mette (now Wendy Stein) a plea bargain, he would not have investigated Schwab and Taliaferro with the same vigor:
Mark Black, who was based in Aberdeen when he worked for the state Department of Criminal Investigation, said he didn’t know about a plea agreement that resulted in child abuse charges against an Aberdeen woman being dismissed in a 2012 case.
“If I had that information, I wouldn’t have went down that road (I did), and all I would have had left was a witness tampering (allegation) that would have been hard to prove,” Black said during a phone call last week [Elisa Sand, “Ex-DCI Agent: Info Would Have Changed My Investigation,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.04.10].
Wait a minute. When DCI and the special prosecutor, states attorney Michael Moore from Beadle County, dropped the investigative hammer on Schwab and Taliaferro in November 2011, Black told Schwab, “The Attorney General himself has told me to work on this until I am done with it. This is my priority case right now, short of a homicide happening.” If the Attorney General orders a DCI agent to make a case his priority, does the agent really have the leeway to say, “Sorry, Marty, I don’t like the sound of the plea deal we’re using to get information from one of our witnesses, so I’m not going to investigate this case as hard as you’re telling me to”?
Aberdeen lawyer Kimberly Dorsett, who was Brown County’s state’s attorney during the Schwab-Taliaferro-Mette mess, says Black is talking nonsense:
“These allegations are absolutely not true and they’re outlandish,” Dorsett said by phone on Wednesday.
As for Black’s investigation, Dorsett said she didn’t withhold anything.
“I gave him open access to everything,” she said, explaining that Black could have accessed (more) information and the contents of recorded phone conversations, but didn’t.
“He decided the course of his investigation,” Dorsett said [Sand, 2015.04.10].
It’s hard to tell whose word to take in this very messy, very political scandal. But Mark Black sounds like he’s willing to change his story and latch onto others’ narratives to distract from his firing and make himself sound like one of the good guys when in fact he was hip deep with the bad guys.