FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 18, 2015
CONTACT: Sara Rabern (605) 773-3215
South Dakota Supreme Court Upholds Sentence in Aggravated Assault Case Against
SD Highway Patrol Officer
PIERRE – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today the South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the sentence of Rachel Lee Coleman. In January 2014, Coleman pled guilty to aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, driving while under the influence and admitted to the part II information alleging that she had been convicted of three prior DUI offenses in the last ten years.
“This case highlights the importance of addressing addiction and protecting the public from the dangers from impaired driving on our roads,” said Jackley.
On October 17, 2012, South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Andrew Steen attempted to initiate a vehicle stop, but Coleman refused to stop and a high speed pursuit ensued. The incident escalated resulting in the Trooper being hit by Coleman’s vehicle. Coleman’s blood alcohol content was approximately 0.26% at the time of her arrest. Trooper Steen received life-threatening injuries, including multiple skull fractures, a traumatic brain injury and a broken ankle. Trooper Steen spent two month in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
The Court rejected Coleman’s argument that a sentence of 42.5 years was excessive. The Court recognized that Coleman’s decision to ignore her alcohol addiction despite three prior DUI convictions placed the public at risk and forever altered the course of Trooper Steen’s life and her own. The Court reiterated that a severe sentence does not in and of itself constitute cruel and unusual punishment.