Judge: South Dakota can’t use COVID-19 to delay trial

Judge: South Dakota can’t use COVID-19 to delay trial

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A federal judge says a state court in South Dakota can’t use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to delay a Codington County trial.

The Argus Leader reports U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann also criticized South Dakota’s response to the pandemic, saying it has done “little, if anything,” to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Kornmann ordered that unless the Codington County state court resolves Matthew Kurtenbach’s May 2019 case by Jan. 15, Kurtenbach will win a federal petition he filed claiming wrongful imprisonment and a violation of his right to a speedy trial.

“South Dakota cannot ‘take advantage’ of its own failures to follow scientific facts and safeguards in entering blanket denials of the rights of speedy trials,” the judge wrote.

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Kurtenbach petitioned the court at least 25 times for a right to a speedy trial.

The state court had scheduled a January 2020 trial for the case, which accused him of aggravated assault and in subsequent cases, violating a no-contact order, but the trial was never held. The state court did, however, hold a hearing in January on that aggravated assault case and a separate forgery case, to rule on Kurtenbach’s motions to drop the case, which were denied.

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