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Press Release

Pierre Woman Sentenced for Involuntary Manslaughter

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

Acting United States Attorney Dennis R. Holmes announced that a Pierre, South Dakota, woman convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter was sentenced on October 4, 2021, by Chief Judge Roberto A. Lange, U.S. District Court.

Emerald Plenty Chief, age 26, was sentenced to 26 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund in the amount of $100.

Plenty Chief was indicted by a federal grand jury on January 12, 2021.  She pled guilty on July 15, 2021.

The conviction stemmed from an incident that occurred in Hughes County, South Dakota, on April 26, 2020.  On that date, Plenty Chief was at a gathering at the West Bend State Recreation Area east of Pierre, along with her four-year-old son, the victim.  Plenty Chief was consuming alcoholic beverages and was intoxicated.  At some point, Plenty Chief decided to leave and departed the area with the victim in the back seat of her vehicle.  A short time later, Plenty Chief was traveling northbound on West Bend Road when she approached a curve at a speed of approximately 77 mph, in an area where the posted speed limit is 55 mph.  Plenty Chief failed to negotiate the curve and overcorrected, at which point the vehicle left the roadway and rolled.  Plenty Chief was not wearing seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle.  The victim was not secured in a child seat and was likewise ejected from the vehicle.  The victim died as a result of the injuries suffered in the wreck.  An adult passenger was also injured in the wreck.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the South Dakota Highway Patrol, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the Hughes County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Albertson prosecuted the case.

Plenty Chief was immediately turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Updated October 7, 2021