Lenger sentence to 30 years in prison for rape

Brookings County Sheriff's Office photo

BROOKINGS – A Brookings man who admitted to raping and having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Dalton Lenger, 25, pleaded guilty in Brookings County Circuit Court June 30 to second-degree rape and sexual contact without consent of a person capable of consenting.

A criminal complaint says that on or between July 7, 2018, and Feb. 28, 2019, Lenger raped the victim by the use of coercion, accompanied by the apparent power of execution, and had sexual contact with the same victim.

In exchange for the pleas, there was a 30-year cap on the sentence handed down Tuesday, and Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson recommended the full 30 years on the rape charge.

All remaining charges in Brookings County were dismissed, and there will be no additional charges filed in Minnehaha and Davison counties.

At sentencing this week, defense attorney Rick Ribstein said Lenger has the support of his family, and over time Lenger has acknowledged and accepted responsibility for his actions.

Lenger has had no issues while incarcerated and did not put the victims through a trial, Ribstein said. The attorney asked the judge to consider suspending some of the prison sentence so Lenger can be paroled and some day move forward, be productive and have a family.

Lenger can be a good probation risk, Ribstein said.

Circuit Judge Greg Stoltenburg commented on a 15-page letter Lenger wrote to the judge, saying Lenger’s “narcissistic tendencies” were clear in the document.

“You are taking zero responsibility for your actions,” Stoltenburg said. “It’s not all about you.”

Stoltenburg said Lenger portrayed himself as a rescuer of a family, but he was really grooming them to advance his sexual desires on children.

“You are a sexual offender,” the judge said, noting that he would have given Lenger more time if he could, but would go along with the plea agreement. Stoltenburg did give Lenger credit for taking the plea agreement and not putting the victims through the trauma of testifying at trial.

Stoltenburg then sentenced Lenger to 365 days in jail for the sexual contact charge, with credit for 365 days already served in jail. 

None of the jail time previously served will be credited toward the penitentiary sentence for rape.

For the rape conviction, Stoltenburg sentenced Lenger to 30 years in the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

Lenger must pay court-appointed attorney fees, $104 in court costs, and $1,800 for his psychosexual evaluation. He must remain law abiding, follow the rules and regulations of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and register as a sex offender. He cannot have any contact with the victims, their family, or anyone under the age of 18. 

He was remanded to the custody of the sheriff’s office for transport to the penitentiary.

Second-degree rape is a Class 1 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison and a $50,000 fine, and sexual contact is a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Nelson said the 30-year penitentiary sentence was a way to achieve justice without causing further trauma to the victims in the case. 

“The victims displayed tremendous courage throughout this entire process. They gracefully handled each difficulty involved in a prosecution of this nature. We hope that today’s sentence is an important step in their road to recovery,” Nelson said Tuesday. 

“The State’s Attorney’s Office is not only tasked to protect the community from predators like Dalton Lenger but to ensure victims receive protection from further trauma. The further trauma often involves testimony at trial.

“After consulting with the victims throughout the last year, we collectively felt that 30 years in the penitentiary and no credit for the nearly 500 days he’s spent was the right balance between accountability and protecting the victims.”

Contact Jill Fier at [email protected]

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