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Schwab Blows Whistle on Foster Care Abuse and State Abuse of Power

Last updated on 2014.03.03

In January 2013, Judge Gene Paul Kean dismissed the state's flimsy case against of Shirley Schwab and Brandon Taliaferro for witness tampering and other charges. Last December, Judge Kean ordered the expungement five of the counts on which Taliaferro was arrested, noting with distaste the state's brazen disregard for court orders.

But Schwab says justice still hasn't been done. Schwab thus appears to be launching a whistleblowing campaign to challenge the state and raise money for legal costs. Her first public salvo is this video, summarizing her argument that the state has abused its power to shield a sexually abusive foster father and his silently complicit wife and protect itself from a lawsuit on behalf of abused Native American children:

To summarize Schwab's narrative:

The South Dakota Department of Social Services had evidence for over a decade that the five Native American children it placed in the home of Richard and Wendy Mette in Aberdeen. In 2001, DSS had the Mettes sign a contract requiring that they lock up pornographic materials in their home and refrain from touching the children. In 2007, DSS documented porn, physical beatings, and sexual touching the home. DSS left the children in the home.

Richard Mette was arrested in November 2010 and later indicted on multiple counts of physical and sexual abuse. Wendy Mette was indicted in March 2011 for child abuse.

On June 1, 2011, court-appointed guardian ad litem Scott Heidepriem reported that there was the potential for the Mettes' Native American foster children to pursue a civil claim against the state. The threat of such legal action, says Schwab, prompted the state to dismantle the team assembled to protect the children and sabotage its own case against the Mettes. Schwab alleges that the state executed and leaked search warrants against herself and Taliferro in order to cast doubt on the allegations against the Mettes. The state completely shielded itself from civil litigation by dropping all charges against Wendy Mette and returning the abused children to her legal guardianship.

Schwab says she and Taliaferro have incurred a quarter million dollars (and counting: the state is still fighting them) in legal costs. This video is part of her effort to raise money to cover past, present, and future litigation.

Update 2014.03.03 07:58 CST: Schwab offers documents to support her story and seeks donations to the "South Dakota Child Advocates Defense Fund" online at


  1. Disgusted Dakotan 2014.03.03

    Yes! But Marty Jackley is a Rounds political machine appointee who is real good at protecting the machine and going after any who oppose it.

  2. Rorschach 2014.03.03

    This reminds me of the scapegoating and prosecutions that went on in Plankinton when a poorly designed and implemented juvenile boot camp led to the death of Gina Score. To avoid responsibility, the higher ups singled out folks down the line for blame and ruined them professionally and financially. Those prosecutions failed too.

    Here it looks like the DCI agent in charge of intimidating the child victims gets a paid vacation, and the people fighting for the child victims get a mountain of legal fees. Social Services gets a free pass.

  3. Ann J. 2014.03.03

    I commend Shirley for her continued fight against the corruption and abuse of powers within the state of South Dakota. Between September/October 2012 it had been brought to my attention that a child had been molested in a foster home. In late January 2013 the family of the children became concerned of how the Department of Social Services was handling the case. They approached the new States Attorney, Larry Lovrien. It was clear that he was not aware of this case as the alleged abuse happened under the Dorsett administration. The alleged perpetrator, Fred Slota was indicted on 02/18/2013. Mr. Lovrien was quick to act on these allegations. The trial has been rescheduled a couple of times and is currently scheduled for the end of March 2014. I quote the information provided by a DSS/CPS worker via Face Book regarding these allegations: "And on a personal note, I happen to be the case worker for those kids you were referring to, it matters to me that you know I did investigate the broken arm and the sexual abuse was a one time incedent, which I also investigated." WOW! The AAN has reported little on this case and what little they did report, they failed to mention that this was a licensed foster parent and the victim was a foster child. Again, Thank you Shirley for exposing and fighting for what is right to protect the children and families within our state.

  4. David Newquist 2014.03.03

    A major factor in false prosecutions and wrongful convictions in Brown County is legal fees. Shirley Schwab and Brandon Taliaferro were saddled with huge debt to defend themselves against charges that Judge Kean found baseless. In his explanation to the jury he made clear that "office politics" and incompetent investigation drove the case against them. He twice cited Mark Black's role, once calling his investigation "substandard" and once alluding to his absurd performance on the witness stand in front of the jury.

    While the state's attorney has immunity from being sued, there are factors in this case that clearly fit the provisions in law for removing the state's attorney from office or otherwise disciplining them. The apparent conflict of interest of holding a contract with DSS while dismantling a case that reflected badly on the agency and filing a case based on false charges against the defendant has never been examined for misconduct. People associated with organizations dealing with wrongful convictions and deliberate injustice have cited cases in other states where such instances resulted in prosecutions and disbarment.

    There is much involved in this case for which the state needs to answer.

  5. David Newquist 2014.03.03

    Another point: the guardian ad litem appointed to look after the interests of the children in this case reported that the children hahed ample reason to sue the DSS for the treatment to which they were subjected. This threat of a big law suit was cited as the factor that triggered the vendetta against Shirley Schwab and Brandon Taliaferro. The lingering question is whether such a suit is now being contemplated and who, in the interest of the children, would bring it forward?

  6. Douglas Wiken 2014.03.03

    On an unrelated case but with eerie similarities, yesterday, SDPB-radio had a report on abuses by border and homeland security and FBI.

    A US citizen was stopped at the border and a dog decided she had drugs. She was strip searched and probed for drugs. Nothing was found. She was then hauled to a hospital and chained to a bed and fed a powerful laxative. Still no evidence of drugs. She was then given an xray. No drugs. Then an MRI and no drugs. Then a doctor probed her anus and vagina with one hand in and one hand on abdomen squeezing the two together to find drugs. No drugs were found.

    Then an FBI agent said that if she would sign a release, she would not be charged for bills by the hospital. She refused and was billed $6,000 by the hospital. Think this was in Texas.

    Reporters trying to investigate such are often denied any meaningful response. Even courts get highly redacted reports. The whole system intimidates innocents and attempts to bankrupt them if they complain about official malfeasance and persecution.

    Our US Congress is of course not terribly interested in investigating the repressive systems they design.

  7. Jenny 2014.03.03

    When I worked at the Pierre hospital, state employees would come in to audit the Medicaid neonatal cases. They would always deliberately lower the reimbursement to the hospital so they wouldn't have to pay as much out . How did they do this? They would audit the neonatal records and disagree with the doctor's diagnosis and "highly recommend" to the doctor on an audit sheet that the diagnosis be changed to a less severe one JUST so the state didn't have to pay out as much money to the hospital. This always irked me big time, and I always wondered why know one else working with me at the time would be as upset as I was. Apparently, this had been going on for years and was just business as usual. None of the doctors ever wanted to fight it.
    A lot of these Medicaid cases were native American babies with a lot of medical problems. This is such a disregard for our state's most innocent - our babies. South Dakotans are so naïve (and stupid) to think that their government is working with utmost integrity.

  8. Jenny 2014.03.03

    South Dakota needs an Erin Brokovich kind of moment, and a democrat governor to clean up Pierre.

  9. Tara Volesky 2014.03.03

    Shirley Schwab has been an advocate of children for many years. There are so many stories that are covered up in SD. Keep fighting Shirley. We need more whistle blowers like you. Remember New Orleans? Call me.

  10. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.03

    This is so horrible I can hardly respond. Those people who are covering this up are sick, filthy, abusive bastards. They are every bit as vile as the perpetrators. They ARE perpetrators.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.03.04

    Jenny, that is horrible. We have the wealth to pay for such health care. Our state is just too much of a Scrooge to live up to its "taking care of people" budget rhetoric.

  12. Jenny 2014.03.04

    Especially when the party that rules South Dakota claims to be the "pro-life" party, Cory.

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