Cayou sentenced to 15 years for first-degree rape

Brookings County Sheriff's Office photo

BROOKINGS – A Brookings man who admitted to raping a 12-year-old girl last October has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Tajhon Cayou, 18, pleaded guilty to first-degree rape in January, and he appeared in Brookings County Circuit Court on Tuesday for sentencing.

A probable cause statement from Brookings Police says the victim reported the assault to a school counselor who immediately reported it to authorities.

Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson said in January that Cayou fled the county last year and was eventually apprehended in Nebraska on a warrant. Nelson said extraditing Cayou back to Brookings County to face charges here was a multiagency effort between the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Brookings Police Department, the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office, and Nebraska law enforcement.

In exchange for Cayou’s guilty plea, a second count of first-degree rape was dismissed.

First-degree rape is a Class C felony punishable by up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine. The conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

At sentencing this week, defense attorney Stacia Jackson said Cayou had a childhood affected by violence, drug abuse, poverty, family separations and sexual abuse. She said Cayou is young, immature and impulsive, but he has good support from some people in his life and thrives in a structured environment.

Jackson said Cayou’s background is an explanation but not an excuse for what he did, and he needs to think about the long-term impact of his actions. She’s seen a change in Cayou’s maturity level in the time she’s known him.

Jackson asked Circuit Judge Greg Stoltenburg to deviate from the mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison due to mitigating factors.

Stoltenburg said several things stood out for him, including Cayou’s background, age and lack of an adult criminal history. But the judge also noted that Cayou has an above-average risk for sexual reoffense.

Stoltenburg said he saw a lack of remorse from Cayou in his pre-sentence investigation and psychosexual evaluation.

“You ruined the lives of many people by your actions. They have lifetime implications. … I don’t think you really, truly think you did anything wrong,” Stoltenburg said. “You ruined lives. She’ll have to live with it.”

The judge said he found no mitigating factors to deviate from the mandatory minimum sentence.

Stoltenburg then sentenced Cayou to 15 years in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. He must pay $116.50 in court costs, court-appointed attorney fees, and $1,800 for his psychosexual evaluation.

Cayou must remain law abiding, follow the rules and regulations of the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles, comply with all sex offender registry laws, and complete any sex offender treatment ordered by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. He also cannot have any contact with the victim and her family.

Cayou gets credit for 218 days of pre-trial detention. He was then remanded to the custody of the sheriff’s office for transport to the penitentiary.

Nelson praised law enforcement officers for their efforts on the case.

“Protecting children and holding predators like Mr. Cayou accountable remains the most important part of our job. The law enforcement agencies that investigated and later apprehended him in Nebraska deserve credit for their efforts. I’m hopeful the victims can move forward and begin the healing process,” Nelson said this week.

Contact Jill Fier at [email protected]

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