Last updated on 2014.03.01
A South Dakota state law enforcement officer faces a protection order for harassing his ex-wife.
On February 13, 2014, Patricia Ann Black of Aberdeen asked the court to keep her ex-husband Mark Robert Black away from her.
Mark Black is an agent for the Division of Criminal Investigation based in Aberdeen. According to the petition, Agent Black showed a history of intimidating, violent behavior toward his wife until and after he filed for divorce in March 2013. The protection order petition says Agent Black routinely carries a concealed weapon off duty. The petition accuses Black of verbally and physically assaulting his wife, throwing and breaking things, punching holes in walls. After the divorce was finalized, Agent Black continued to harass Patricia, apparently using his law enforcement authority to enhance his threats:
Shortly after threatening to have Patricia arrested, Agent Black married another woman. According to the petition, the last five months have been a maudlin mix of the newly re-wed agent sending intimidating texts, pleading for forgiveness, and threatening to violate the divorce decree and subject Patricia to an IRS audit. In a handwritten letter dated October 23, 2013, Agent Black admits physically abusing his wife:
This personal drama figures in the blog coverage because of Agent Black's participation in the state's failed prosecution of Brandon Taliaferro and Shirley Schwab. As discussed here last month, the state's effort to punish Taliaferro and Schwab for protecting Native American children suffering sexual abuse in foster care involved numerous abuses of power.
Agent Black mentions that trial in his October plea to his ex-wife:
I sit and think about the week I left. The Schwab trial was going horribly, the AG and Gorto wanted me gone over Laura's B.S. lies and most importantly we were falling apart. You pleaded w/me to talk to you and I kept pushing you away. That was without a doubt the worst week of my life [Mark Robert Black, letter to Patricia Ann Black, 2013.10.23, part of TPO #14-010, submitted to Fifth Circuit Court, Brown County, 2014.02.13].
It certainly was a bad week for Agent Black in court. He had led the investigation of Taliaferro and Schwab. He had conducted intimidating interrogations of the foster children the defendants had been trying to protect:
In a basement interrogation room in South Dakota, agents of the state’s Department [sic] of Criminal Investigation were on the firing line. A group of Native American children were claiming sexual and physical abuse by their white adoptive parents, whose home they first entered as foster children.
...Startlingly, the agents who summoned the children to the interrogation that day in November 2011 were working hard to get the youngsters to recant their abuse claims. State officials also brought charges against the deputy state’s attorney and a child welfare advocate, Brandon Taliaferro and Shirley Schwab, who moved to stop the abuse. Their trial on charges of getting the children to lie about the abuse is set for January 7, 2013.
That day, Sheriff’s deputies had taken the children out of school, court records show, and brought them to the basement room, with its table, chairs, one-way mirror, and recording equipment. One by one, the children faced Agent Mark Black of the Department [sic] of Criminal Investigations and a partner. The children were each alone, without an adult present on their behalf.
While being questioned by the agents, the children became fearful and wept, according to someone familiar with the case who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. The youngsters were apparently not told they were being recorded. While left alone for a time, one explored the room, discovered the camera equipment behind a peephole, and began to cry [Stephanie Woodard, "Rough Justice in Indian Child Welfare," 100 Reporters, 2012.12.26].
The video of that interrogation also caught an unsympathetic and incautious Agent Black discussing intimidation tactics to be used against adult witnesses in this case:
One agent says the children “have been f—ing with us.” The men talk about questioning the therapist to whom the children described the sexual assaults. Agent Black says, “I guarantee we put [her] in here. Put the f—ing hot screws in her. Bitch you’re in f—ing deep shit. You better start talking.” Later Black says, “At least we f— with Brandon” [Woodard, 2012.12.26].
Judge Gene Paul Kean dismissed the case before the defendants had to call a single witness. Judge Kean expressed disgust with the state's shoddy police work and their blatant refusal to obey a court order.
Agent Black's treatment of his wife reflects the intimidation tactics Agent Black demonstrated in the Taliaferro-Schwab case. This dangerous behavior convinced Fifth Circuit Judge Scott Myren to issue a temporary protection order.
Patricia Black is asking the court to prohibit her ex-husband from coming within 500 yards of her and to not set foot in her house for five years. She also asks that the court require Agent Black to submit to counseling for anger management, depression, and other mental and emotional issues.
Until the March 12 hearing on this request before Judge Jon S. Flemmer, Agent Black is to have no contact with his ex-wife. He also was ordered to immediately turn over all weapons and ammunition to the local sheriff... which could complicate being a state law enforcement agent.