A Republican candidate for South Dakota The Legislature has been charged with child abuse following accusations of grooming, assaulting and raping a child family member for several years.
Joel Koskan, who is running for the state Senate for the third time, was charged Thursday in Mellette County with exposing the child to “sexual grooming behaviors” after Assistant Attorney General Mandy Miller reviewed an investigation conducted by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigations. He allegedly groomed and abused the girl for at least six years from 2014 when she was 12.
The Republican allegedly began grooming the child by kissing her, giving her long hugs and having her sit on his lap, a DCI agent wrote in court documents, adding that the girl believed that this behavior were “normal things” that families were expected to do.”
The girl, who reported Koskan to authorities in May, realized the conduct was inappropriate during a religious summer camp she attended aged 14, where counselors taught her when the physical contact with adults can become inappropriate or sexual.
She said that when she grew up, Koskan would “require” her to wear a nightgown with no underwear after a shower. He also made her ride him after the shower, when she was not wearing underwear.
When the victim was 17, Koskan penetrated her with his fingers for the first time. She said he later began forcing sex which happened multiple times at different family homes across the state. She didn’t realize how inappropriate their interactions were until she started making friends her own age.
Koskan reportedly controls his social media accounts to limit his interactions with others. He also tracked her using GPS, demanded nightly phone calls, and dictated the clothes she wore.
Text messages between Koskan and the victim on May 6, the day she reported him to the sheriff’s officeseemed to confirm that he was following his position.
“You promised you would never do this,” Koskan texted her. “I’m begging you, you don’t want to do this.”
Other text messages reviewed by a DCI agent confirmed the victim’s story, according to court documents.
Koskan what taken into custody Thursday. He has a first hearing scheduled for Monday. He could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000.
The state senate candidate made his campaign website private after the alleged child abuse news broke. He also deleted his Twitter account.
He has yet to withdraw his candidacy in the race against Democratic state Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, but the South Dakota Democratic Party has urged him to suspend his campaign immediately.
“These allegations regarding Joel Koskan are deeply troubling, and he should immediately end his campaign,” State Democratic Party Chairman Randy Seiler said in a statement. “While he will still be on the ballot, the choice of voters in District 26 could not be clearer. Partisan politics aside, Joel Koskan should not vote in the Legislature on issues that affect children. of South Dakota – or on matters at all.”
South Dakota GOP Chairman Dan Lederman also condemned Koskan regarding the allegations.
“The allegation against Joel Koskan is very serious and the Republican Party of South Dakota unequivocally opposes child abuse in all its forms,” Lederman said. “The South Dakota Republican Party trusts the court system to resolve the allegation.”