Convicted rapist, Chris Jones, seeks new sentencing

Associated Press

After being convicted of raping and kidnapping three women in Brookings, Chris Jones is seeking a new sentence.

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — The lawyer for a man convicted of rape and kidnapping in a string of sexual assaults in Brookings last year asked the South Dakota Supreme Court on Tuesday to order that he be resentenced by another judge.

Chris Jones’ lawyer, Rick Ribstein, said another circuit judge should sentence Jones because Circuit Judge David Gienapp exceeded the state’s recommended sentence after the prosecutor failed to publicly note the plea agreement recommending a 70-year prison term during the sentencing hearing.

“He didn’t follow through with the promise. That’s what set this in motion,” Ribstein said.

Jones, 22, pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree rape and one count of first-degree kidnapping as part of the plea agreement. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop lesser charges and cap the prison time to 70 years — making Jones eligible for parole after 35 years.

But Gienapp handed Jones a sentence exceeding the plea agreement last November. Jones filed a motion for a new sentencing hearing with a different judge.

Gienapp denied the motion for a new judge and resentenced Jones a month later to a sentence similar to the original one. Jones received 80 years in prison for the three rape convictions and 75 years — with 55 years suspended — for the kidnapping charge.

Assistant Attorney General Donald Tinklepaugh said the prosecutor was “not trying to make some underhanded attempt to get this longer sentence” and the breach was corrected with the resentencing. He asked the state Supreme Court to affirm the second sentence.

The five justices heard the case at Dakota State University in Mitchell. The court will issue a written decision later.

Justice Glen Severson noted that the written plea agreement was included in the presentencing report.

But Ribstein said Gienapp may not have reviewed that report.

“Prosecutors have a duty to note it at sentencing,” he said. “Judges are busy. They sentence five to 10 people a day sometimes.”

Ribstein also said comments the prosecutor made at the original sentencing calling Jones a “psychopath” and “an animal that should be caged” may have led the court to believe Jones should be given a sentence exceeding the plea agreement.

Tinklepaugh disagreed.

“The prosecutor said on three different occasions that he supported the 70 years and his previous comments were in support of 70 years. The judge also acknowledged the state was in favor of a 70-year plea agreement,” he said.

A different sentencing judge would be unfamiliar with the case and its history, Tinklepaugh said.

Ribstein acknowledged another judge also could give Jones a sentence exceeding the plea agreement.

“Even though it may be the same sentence, he’ll get what he bargained for,” he said.