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Native Sun News: South Dakota man charged with child abuse

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Charles Chipps of Wanblee will undergo a mental competency evaluation as he faces federal charges of sexual abuse and intimidation.

Mental competency of accused sex offender questioned
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY — The sexual abuse of a child is always an emotional issue; even more so when the accused abuser is a member of the child’s family. The allegation of abuse from a father and grandfather who is also a recognized “medicine man” adds an even darker note to an already dark situation.

In June of 2013 Charles Chipps of Wanblee was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly sexually abusing and intimidating members of his own family between the years of 2006 and 2010.

United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced at that time that Chipps had been indicted for seven counts of Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Minor, three counts of Abusive Sexual Contact of a Minor, three counts of Aggravated Incest, and two counts of Witness Intimidation.

Chipps appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy on July 10, 2013, and pled not guilty to the indictment. Chipps faces a mandatory minimum of 30 years’ imprisonment up to a maximum of life imprisonment upon conviction and a $250,000 fine.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety.

In a document obtained by Native Sun News, some of the abuse included the accused Chipps sleeping in the same bed with one or more of the victims, and having sexual intercourse with one of the children, an act that was reportedly witnessed by another of the alleged victims. This was a situation that occurred, according to the child, on more than one occasion.

Other children have come forward but were not included in the indictment, but were included in the investigation for what they had allegedly witnessed or for abuse they allegedly had experienced by the hand of Chipps.

One of the young alleged victims reported that she was threatened with physical harm by Chipps if she reported him. Under Federal Rule of Evidence a child is defined as a person below the age of fourteen.

In one instance the alleged victim, a young girl from Colorado, who with her aunt, had sought Chipps out for spiritual guidance, committed suicide after disclosing the abuse she allegedly suffered by Chipps.

Chipps had been set for trial in September of 2013, but due to numerous filings and motions usually associated in a highly complicated case such as this, Chipps has yet to sit before a judge. His attorney, Terry L. Pechota, filed a declaration in late January of this year stating that Chipps has a defense of mental incompetence in this case.

In the declaration, Pechota asserts that he has witnessed a “significant change” in his behavior and demeanor in recent months and that the defendant suffers from “labored breathing, trouble talking, long periods of silence like in a comatose state” and trouble making meaningful communication. Pechota also states that he believes Chipps is unable to understand the charges he is facing.

Pechota’s declaration suggests the defendant’s current mental deterioration comes as the result of injuries he received during a 2011 car accident. In this accident, Jaylene Quick Bear, 51, lost her life.

Chipps was traveling east on SD 44 in September of 2011 when Jackson County Sheriff Ray Clements initiated a traffic stop for a traffic violation, and the vehicle failed to stop. Chipps failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway and the vehicle rolled several times. Quick Bear was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle and suffered fatal injuries.

Chipps, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was trapped in the vehicle and needed to be extricated. He was later taken to Rapid City Regional Hospital by ambulance with life-threatening injuries. State charges are still pending against Chipps.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol is investigating. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and OST Police assisted.

Pechota’s declaration calls for a full physical and mental examination to be ordered prior to any hearing in this case.

On January 29 of this year, Chief Judge Jeffrey L. Viken ordered that Chipps be transported by the U.S. Marshal’s Service to a facility operated by the Bureau of Prisons capable of conducting a psychiatric or psychological examination to determine his competency.

Viken ordered that the full psychiatric or psychological examination be conducted within thirty days and that a report be filed with the court. Upon completion, Chipps is to be transported back to Rapid City for any further action in the case against him.

Native Sun News will be following the outcome of this case and any further developments. Watch for a column in next week’s paper by Karin Eagle that further discusses the psychological effects on children who report sexual abuse.

(Contact Karin Eagle at

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