PRESS RELEASE FROM THE
CUSTER COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
RE: POET’S TABLE
The Custer County State’s Attorney’s Office received law enforcement reports today concerning the theft and vandalism of the coveted Poet’s Table from Custer State Park. Shelby Johnson, age 27, and Skyler Anders, age 29, have been issued citations by Park Ranger Jim Ganser for one count each of Intentional Damage to Property (SDCL 22-34-1(1)) and Petty Theft (SDCL 22-30A-17.3) after communications between the Custer County State’s Attorney’s Office, the State via the Attorney General’s Office, and law enforcement from Custer State Park and the Custer County Sheriff’s Office. Each charge is a Class 2 Misdemeanor. Under South Dakota Law, the degree of offense is based entirely upon the actual replacement value of the items destroyed and/or taken; thereby limiting what criminal charges can be brought by the County and/or State. While sentimental value is not part of any valuation for purposes of enhancing the degree of criminal charges, it goes without saying that there is considerable sentimental value attached to Poet’s Table and the items removed. Over the years, a great many people have visited the area and left a piece of themselves, whether through carving of their initials, writings, or memories or thoughts shared in the tranquility of the setting. The social media posts are a testament by many of those individuals.
Those of us lucky enough to live in the Black Hills know that our economy thrives on agriculture and tourism. The scenic beauty of the area has always been a draw for visitors, despite efforts of the mountain pine beetle to hinder that aesthetic characteristic. Many of us find the recreational opportunities available to us in the Black Hills and the freedoms associated with them to be the greatest attribute of all. The danger in those freedoms is that they can just as easily be taken away when people abuse them or we take for granted that they will always be there. We all have a responsibility to insure that future generations can enjoy the same opportunities that exist today. We can hope that the State, albeit within its authorities, does not find a need to restrict access and/or activities because of the indifference and lack of respect shown by these individuals at Poet’s Table. I hope that the lessons that can be learned from this senseless act are not quickly lost and they can be used to promote sound ethics and instill in the public our responsibility and role in preserving our environment and recreational freedoms.
Both the Custer County Sheriff’s Office and Custer State Park law enforcement should be commended for their efforts in handling this matter. In the future, I would encourage anyone with knowledge of such acts to be proactive and to immediately make a report to law enforcement. I would also remind that social media, while it can be a great tool, it can also be a double-edged sword. Posting of inaccurate information can often times do more harm than good and I ask that the public be mindful of those pitfalls.
Custer County State’s Attorney , Tracy L. Kelley