Legal Ethics

Top SD Court Raps Ex-Prosecutor, Says He Shouldn’t Have Put Grand Jury Transcripts on Web

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A former prosecutor should be publicly censured for putting grand jury transcripts on the Internet, the South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled, even though he obtained a court order authorizing him to do so.

Now a state lawmaker, Lance Russsell (R-Hot Springs) also erred as Fall River County’s state’s attorney by issuing a press release criticizing a judge’s delay in starting a murder trial, reports the Associated Press.

“The release of the grand jury transcripts and the press release critical of Judge [Jeff] Davis was the product of a relatively inexperienced prosecutor who was caught up in the volatile political environment in Hot Springs and who allowed himself to be seduced by it,” the court said in its written opinion. “Balanced against this, however, is that Russell immediately admitted his errors, cooperated with the disciplinary board, and completed an advanced degree.”

Russell tells the AP he disagrees that he did anything wrong and is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I found that disappointing because the way in which I perceived what I was doing was that I had a duty,” he said of the court’s criticism that he had been seduced by political considerations. “I was married to my job and my duty, and I was doing the best I could to make sure the laws were enforced.”

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