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Cammack’s Attorney Argues Sealed DUI Case in Public Arena

Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack says, “There’s a substantial amount of misinformation out there” concerning his January 18, 2020, arrest in Meade County for driving under the influence of alcohol, his plea down to careless driving, his June 29, 2021, sentence of six months probation, and the court’s sealing of Cammack’s case.

I don’t know where Cammack is seeing misinformation, but everything I’ve posted about Cammack’s arrest since breaking the story on October 5 has been entirely factual. I posted Cammack’s arrest record, which showed the date of the arrest, the charges, and their court disposition. After I broke the story, other reporters discovered this public document was no longer available through the Unified Justice System. I thus reported other reporters’ finding that the court had apparently sealed the case.

But when bad news comes out, Republicans’ first resort is to shout “misinformation” or “fake news” to signal to their supporters that they should just ignore those unpleasant facts and keep voting R.

Sigh.

Cammack’s lawyer, Nathaniel Nelson, has sent a letter to West River newspapers to argue his client’s case in the public arena.

Really, Counsel Nelson? Leaving the case sealed isn’t enough for your client? Your client wants to have that argument?

Cammack wasn’t drunk, argues Nelson. He was driving with his wife to go help his poor son, who’d broken his leg that day. Sure, he forgot supper and his driver’s license, and sure, he still remembered to have a whiskey and Coke before getting behind the wheel, and sure, he was doing 54 in a 45, but come on—his poor son!

Sergeant Todd Albertson of the South Dakota Highway Patrol found cause to arrest Cammack for DUI, given the odor of alcohol on his person and his poor performance on the field sobriety tests, but Nelson contests the evidence, suggesting Cammack had trouble walking due to his muck boots:

Nelson said that Cammack consented to a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) which did not provide probably cause for his arrest. The legal limit for alcohol by weight in the blood in South Dakota is .08.

Cammack, wearing calf-high muck boots, then agreed to perform the standardized field sobriety tests and exercises. Based on Cammack’s performance, he was placed under arrest for driving under the influence, Albertson wrote [Deb Holland, “Cammack: Sealing of Court Case Not an Attempt to Hide,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2021.10.19].

If Nelson finds it relevant to mention Cammack’s muck boots, I find it relevant to ask, what kind of working man can’t walk straight in his working boots?

But on with the argument. Cammack apparently passed his first breath test, then blew 0.082, just above the legal limit, on the second test 15 minutes after the stop.

“The results of the second PBT, while not admissible in court, is strong evidence that Mr. Cammack was under the legal limit at the time he was stopped and would have remained under the limit until he reached his destination had he not been pulled over,” Nelson said.

Cammack also consented to a blood draw for testing which later showed his BAC was .07%. Nelson noted that number is below the legal limit [Holland, 2021.10.19].

The evidence is questionable, but so is attorney Nelson’s assertion that Cammack would not have hit the drunk level before reaching his destination or that Cammack would not have driven anywhere else in his unsteady state.

Nelson reports that Cammack slept off his whiskey and Coke overnight at the Meade County Jail. Nelson says he’s sure a jury would have acquitted Cammack, but Cammack “believed jury trials to be expensive and would expend a tremendous amount of public resources.” We are thus to conclude, it seems, that Cammack is an upstanding public servant and steward of public dollars.

Nelson says the sealing of the record following my breaking the story was sheer coincidence due to error by the clerk of courts:

Cammack’s attorney said he believed the record had been sealed after the June 29 hearing, but later learned, through a string of emails to the Meade County Clerk of Courts, that it had not been.

“The state did not object to granting Mr. Cammack the immediate seal he was entitled to, but the clerk responsible for correcting the paperwork snafu was unable to address the request until Monday, Oct. 4,” Nelson said.

Nelson goes on to say in the letter to the Pioneer that political blogger (Corey Heidelberger of Dakota Free Press) discovered the record of Cammack’s arrest on Oct. 5, and later returned to find the record sealed.

“The sealing of Mr. Cammack’s record was the final step in a common and lawful process occurring thousands of times a year in South Dakota,” Nelson wrote. “But the coincidental timing of those events did nevertheless appear suspicious, even though it was not.”

Nelson said that Cammack, as an elected official, wanted to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and that the integrity of South Dakota’s judiciary be seen as beyond reproach.

“That is the reason he has elected to voluntarily share the private details of this private matter with the public so the public can be assured that Mr. Cammack neither requested, nor received, any preferential treatment from the South Dakota Highway Patrol, the State’s Attorney charged with prosecuting him, nor the judiciary charged with imposing and eventually suspending execution of his sentence,” Nelson said [Holland, 2021.10.19].

Again, the lesson we are to draw here is that Senator Gary Cammack is a fine, upstanding citizen keenly concerned with proper behavior, government integrity, and the public… and who sees nothing wrong with knocking back a whiskey and Coke on an empty stomach right before he gets behind the wheel.

Now there’s your misinformation.

16 Comments

  1. Porter Lansing 2021-10-21

    Heidelberger – one
    SD “swept under the rug, as usual method” – zero

    -The reasoning behind the court sealing the case is unknown.
    -However, since the court records were sealed after Cammack’s conviction on the lesser charges, the Rapid City Journal has retained attorney Jon E. Arneson to seek information on why the action was taken.
    -“The Rapid City Journal is taking this legal action because we believe the public has a right to see these documents,”
    “At the barest minimum, the public­­, even if denied access to the sealed documents, themselves, has good reason to know the basis or grounds for the sealing.”- Arneson

  2. Eve Fisher 2021-10-21

    “Nelson reports that Cammack slept off his whiskey and Coke overnight at the Meade County Jail. Nelson says he’s sure a jury would have acquitted Cammack, but Cammack “believed jury trials to be expensive and would expend a tremendous amount of public resources.” We are thus to conclude, it seems, that Cammack is an upstanding public servant and steward of public dollars.”
    Translation: “Holy crap! A Jury trial’s going to find me guilty and I might be treated like any other public drunk that gets caught, and there’s no way we can sweep it under the rug if 12 people hear the story. Fine, I’ll take a plea deal.”

    Let’s see, a fine of $431.50 for the careless driving charge and $39 fine for the speeding ticket, in addition to $222 in court costs. Conditions of the disposition included paying the fines and costs, and to violate no laws for a period of six months. Well, he did get off worse than Ravnsborg did, and he didn’t actually kill anybody. But he still got off easy compared to the average South Dakotan.

  3. Loren 2021-10-21

    Isn’t that just like a Repuglican, trying to save the government money and preserve the integrity of the justice system? Way to go, Dude! (insert eye roll)

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-10-21

    It would take five to six whiskey and cokes Cory. Certainly not just one. Treated with kid gloves and somewhat free room and board. I like the argument that the last drink won’t affect you before you get home. One more for the road argument is good, any takers?

  5. ArloBlundt 2021-10-21

    Well…one drink and you blow an .082 and blood test a 07? Even on an empty stomach, that one drink must have been a West River double shot. I’ll give the Senator that it could’ve happened to anybody…but that’s the drinking and driving breaks. Sorry about his son breaking his leg.

  6. grudznick 2021-10-21

    Have any of you fellows ever been at the Enning Store after 10pm on a weekend’s eve? I’m just sayin…

  7. Dakota roots 2021-10-21

    well, our senate majority leader (R) down here in kansas, was caught driving the wrong way on. I-70 around the capital city at 2 am, proceeded to tell the State HP officer he could kick his arss. They still tried to sweep it under the rug but one of those pesky journalist got wind of it. Senator did resign his leadership position , the event happened on one of the last days of the 2021 legislative session.

  8. Jake 2021-10-22

    In “Cammack GQP land”, the apple sure doesn’t seem to fall very far from the tree does it? Young son of his in Texas applies for and gets close to a million $$$ for Covid business boost from the government in South Dakota to enhance his business in Texas?
    Surely, if Senator Cammack was seemingly concerned of the small cost of a ‘jury trial’ in his case of DUI, he must have been livid with anger over his son trying to grift all those $$$ from the taxpayers!
    Must’ve drove him to drink, eh?

  9. RST Tribal Member 2021-10-22

    The inbred Republicans keep lowering the moral and ethical bar for driving, drunkenness, or traveling on public highways or walking the hallways of the state capitol. SD seems to have 2 sets of laws; Republicans and everyone else.

    Just some caution thoughts; if Cammack wants to go deer hunting in Charles Mix County with a shot gun take the shells away. Or, if he wants to move to that republican self inflicting harm county just say NO. Or, if he wants to chum around with a former state elected officer who was sent to Washington start thinking of commitment.

    The lyrics “ how low can you go” or “ you can’t always get what you want” are probably playing in the minds of the democrats when it comes to inbred Republicans of SD. Voters in SD are force-fed other lyrics during election season, like Dylan’s “ It Ain’t Me Babe” and fall for like Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football hold.

    The dirty trust money hiding stuff, helping inept adult children get license/money, suppressing voter initiatives, keeping weed smoke out of voter’s lungs, or not wanting to acknowledge the killer virus have all been moved to the back of the bus when a inbred Republican takes the steering wheel.

    Every time a story of National or state or county or tribal governance comes up, I often wonder how my world would be today if the treaties were written in my language instead of the white man’s language. The broken deceiving misused words used in yesteryear and today by any governing party in control causes me to wonder about the importance of words.

  10. Jake 2021-10-22

    RST-so right on the money you are! I remember an old saying, “Look around you at the company you keep. This is what you will e in five years!” Sorta makes one want to leave SD in a hurry, when I realize that it’s those around me, not me, that have elected these bottom-skimmers into office……

  11. jerry 2021-10-22

    Every bar in the state should post the excuse of Cammack for their patrons. If you get stopped by the man, repeat this excuse to be able to plead it down. Spend the night warm and free in the crowbar motel and be thankful for the Cammack excuse to save you money and those pesky classes. Oh, the excuse is your shoes, boots or being barefoot, as long as you claim they are for work. Also, plead hunger for bonus points.

    “Nelson said that Cammack consented to a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) which did not provide probably cause for his arrest. The legal limit for alcohol by weight in the blood in South Dakota is .08.

    Cammack, wearing calf-high muck boots, then agreed to perform the standardized field sobriety tests and exercises. Based on Cammack’s performance, he was placed under arrest for driving under the influence,”

  12. Nix 2021-10-22

    Booze
    Booze
    Booze
    It’s bad. It’s really bad.
    It’s the Demon brew. Cammack should have fired up a left hander instead of chugging the Demon brew.
    At least he wouldn’t have puked on his shoes when he got home.
    I’m just sayin’……

  13. Francis Schaffer 2021-10-22

    Seems like his attorney is making an argument for unsealing the documents by disputing what has already been discovered. The free press needs information to reveal any misinformation he is spreading, instead we have to take him at his word.

  14. jerry 2021-10-22

    Well done Nix, well done

  15. 96Tears 2021-10-23

    Gary Cammack. Maybe you need to sue your attorney for malpractice for sealing your criminal file. If, indeed, you blame the media (one blog????) for generating misinformation (based on your arrest record), your attorney changed the status of an open public record into a sealed shut from public view record. So, because of your attorney, we all know you were pulled over and had been drinking and were arrested for DUI … but nobody can now verify the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Oh, and because you hit the sauce and went driving, but you can’t be held accountable because you’re the Senate Majority Leader. Hurrumph. Hurrumph.

  16. Jake 2021-10-24

    Remember, ranchers; stop buying steel posts and vet supples etc. from this man’s business!

    And it’s over a thousand some miles to take an elk head to Texas to have his son (who got hundreds of thousands of Covid $$$) mount it!

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