The South Dakota Republican spin blog’s first reaction to the news that Republican District 26 Senate candidate Joel Koskan is facing charges of child sex abuse was, “There are no words at the moment.”
Having read the probable cause statement from South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation Brandon Neitzert supporting charges of rape, sexual contact with a child under sixteen, and aggravated incest, I find there are plenty of words, the first of which are, “Joel, you pervert. How could you? She’s your daughter.”
According to Special Agent Neitzert, Echo Koskan, the adopted daughter of Joel and Sally Koskan of Wood, accuses Joel of raping her since she was a young child.
Here’s the story Echo told law enforcement last May, as written up by Special Agent Neitzert:
The Koskans adopted Echo ten years ago, from a family that didn’t give her a very good home life. “Joel would give her very long hugs, kiss her, and have her sit on his lap.” Echo thought this was “normal” affection until, at age 14, she went to summer camp at Christian Camp Judson. Counselors’ discussion of “idols” and inappropriate sexual behavior led her to realize that Joel was acting inappropriately toward her. She reported Joel’s apparent sexual interest in her to a camp counselor, which resulted in camp staff calling the Department of Social Services and having Echo speak with a social worker. Concerned that her allegations against Joel could cause her to lose another family, Echo did not tell the social worker or camp staff anything else about Joel’s inappropriate sexual behavior.
Echo’s report to camp staff did lead to her staying at camp two extra weeks. Joel and Sally got the sense that something was up and were upset with Echo. Sally asked Echo about “what she was trying to do to their family.” Sally knew what Joel had been doing “but would always blame Echo for his behavior….”
The camp incident may have spoked Joel; he stopped touching Echo for a year or two, “but it eventually picked back up again.” Joel also installed a webcam in Echo’s bedroom and watched her on his phone. When Echo complained to Joel that the camera made her feel uncomfortable, “Joel would tell her that he could not see anything anyway because of the way she stands inside of her closet while undressing.”
“Echo explained that as she got older she would try to request more privacy… and she would just be told that she was being ‘disrespectful’.” When she did not return Joel’s affection, Joel would tell Echo she was being “distant or difficult”.
Joel tried to make Echo not wear a bra. He required her to switch from wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and underwear to bed to wearing only a nightgown with nothing underneath. After Echo showered, Joel would make her sit on his lap, facing and straddling him. “Joel told her that since she was growing up, she ‘needed to air those things out’.”
Joel would tell Sally to go to bed, then sit alone with Echo and touch her. When she was 17, Joel progressed to penetrating Echo’s vagina with his fingers and ultimately with his penis. “Joel would always ask if she ‘has his whole heart’ and if she ‘would ever leave him’.”
Echo left home to attend Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown to study aviation maintenance. During school, she stayed in a house owned by Joel. He installed surveillance cameras in the Watertown house and watched her, as evidenced by his stating back to her things she said to friends at a party in the house. Joel tried to forbid Echo from spending time with her male classmates. He monitored her whereabouts with an Apple Air Tag on her keychain and the Live360 app on her phone. Joel controlled Echo’s social media accounts and blocked interactions with other males.
Joel ordered Echo to quit a job she got in Watertown, claiming that the hours she worked were hurting her grades. Echo said Joel was upset that she was gaining financial independence. Echo was having trouble keeping up with her classes, not because of work but because Joel required her to call every night and kept her on the phone until the early morning hours. Joel had also driven the hours from Wood to Watertown to have sex with his daughter. When Echo tried to get Joel to stop, Joel “would apologize and admit that he has not been a good father figure,” but he would resume sexually abusing her and “would often talk about being physically attracted to her.”
At some point last spring, Sally was lecturing Echo about “having sex with her new boyfriend” and how sex is supposed to be a “special event”. When Echo told her mother that Joel had already ruined that specialness by having sex with Echo multiple times, Sally told her that Echo should just lock her bedroom door to keep Joel out.
That’s when Echo realized she would get no support from Sally or Joel. She turned to a friend and told her the whole story. That friend’s dad happens to be retired DCI Director Brian Zeeb (who took Echo’s allegations more seriously than he took DCI Special Agent Laura Zylstra Kaiser’s allegations of sexual misconduct committed by fellow cops). Zeeb told Echo to call the cops immediately. Echo called the cops—specifically, the Spink County Sheriff’s Office, while she was traveling back to Watertown from Wood.
And on May 6, Spink County Sheriff’s Deputy Talese Aucoin called DCI Special Agent Neitzert for help investigating Joel Koskan’s sexual assault of his daughter Echo. On May 11, Neitzert and DCI Victim Witness Specialist Cindy Schmidt interviewed Echo and got the above story. On June 2, DCI got Echo’s permission to search her phone, where Special Agent Shane Hardie found multiple texts referring to GPS tracking and video monitoring, as well as texts from Joel on May 6 stating, “you promised you’d never do this” and “I’m begging you Echo, you don’t want to do this.”
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Joel Koskan’s daughter is accusing him of rape and incest. DCI and the Attorney General’s office find the accusations sufficiently credible to file felony charges.
Koskan’s betrayal of his moral obligation as a father is supremely abominable. His betrayal of the family values he spouted to win votes is rank hypocrisy.
But toward the bottom of this ugly story, we should also note that Koskan betrayed his own party. He knew on May 6 that his daughter was going to report him for rape and incest (not to mention sleazy, creepy, controlling behavior). Koskan had three months when he could have withdrawn his name from the ballot, when he could have given his party leaders a chance to name a replacement candidate. Koskan would have spared his party the grief of having a scandal like this blow up a candidate and the R label he carries.
Koskan knew this stuff was going to hit the fan. He could have spared his party the splattering. But hey: if a guy lacks the basic sense to not screw his daughter, we shouldn’t expect him to show the unselfish sense to withdraw his name from a ballot and let someone a little cleaner carry the party banner.