Five years in prison for assault with knife

Brookings County Sheriff's Office photo

BROOKINGS – A Brookings man who cut another man on the neck during an argument last spring has been sentenced to five years in prison.

William Chopper, 29, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in Brookings County Circuit Court in December. He was indicted by a Brookings County grand jury last June.

A probable cause statement from Brookings Police says officers responded to a report of a man stabbed in the neck in the 500 block of 12th Street South on June 9.

The probable cause statement says Chopper was arguing with the victim when Chopper stabbed the victim in the neck with a box cutter.

“Several individuals held Chopper down, and (the victim) was able to flee the residence,” the statement says.

Brookings Police said the 21-year-old victim was transported to the Brookings hospital and treated for a minor laceration to the neck, a non-life-threatening injury.

Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson said the injury required a few stitches.

Law enforcement officials said in June that Chopper was recently released on parole from the South Dakota State Penitentiary, where he was serving time for a conviction the previous fall for simple assault against a law enforcement officer.

In exchange for the plea, the State recommended a sentence capped at five years in prison. The State dismissed remaining charges, and no further charges will be brought in the case.

At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, defense attorney Rick Ribstein said Chopper has struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, and he was hopeful the court would consider rehabilitation as Chopper wants to seek treatment.

Ribstein asked the judge to stick to the five-year cap on the sentence, with some time suspended.

Circuit Judge Greg Stoltenburg noted that he’s seen Chopper in front of him many times. He seems like a good guy when he’s sober, Stoltenburg said, but Chopper is violent and does stupid things when he drinks alcohol.

“You could have killed someone. You stuck a knife in someone’s throat,” the judge said.

Stoltenburg then sentenced Chopper to five years in the state penitentiary.

Chopper must pay $500 in fines and court costs, plus court-appointed attorney fees. He must follow the rules and regulations of the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles and remain law abiding.

Chopper received credit for 216 days of pre-trial detention and was remanded to the custody of the sheriff’s office for transport to the penitentiary.

“Mr. Chopper has a history of violence in our community, so resolving this case with a penitentiary recommendation is appropriate to deter future behavior and keep Brookings County safe,” Nelson said in a statement.

Aggravated assault – attempting to cause or knowingly causing bodily injury to another with a dangerous weapon – is a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

Contact Jill Fier at [email protected]