FORT PIERRE, S.D. – A former legislative page sued a state senator Tuesday alleging he fondled him in a motel room they shared last year.
Austin Wiese, who was 18 at the time, seeks at least $250,000 in actual damages plus punitive damages from Dan Sutton, a Democrat who was publicly reprimanded by the South Dakota Senate in January after the allegations arose.
Following lengthy hearings, senators said the charges were never proven but that censure was appropriate because Sutton admitted he had shared a motel bed with the young man. No criminal charges have been filed.
Sutton, 37, did not immediately respond to telephone messages seeking comment Tuesday, but he denied the allegations during the Senate investigation earlier this year. "I didn't do what Austin is claiming that I did," he said then.
Wiese's lawsuit says he has suffered mental anguish, shame, indignity, embarrassment and other harm because Sutton groped him. The lawsuit alleges Wiese's conduct amounted to two counts of sexual battery and two counts of sexual assault.
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Wiese's name was used in a public hearing that was carried live on the Internet, and he and his family have discussed the case in the media.
Sutton invited Wiese, a family friend from their hometown of Flandreau, to share his motel room when the young man was a Senate page during the 2006 legislative session, according to the lawsuit. Sutton and Wiese shared a bed in the room, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit says Wiese jumped out of bed and left the room while pretending to be taking a call on his cell phone.
"Wiese was scared, confused and alarmed," the lawsuit states.
He stayed with another friend the rest of the time he served as a page.
Sutton's lawyer, Patrick Duffy, told KELO-TV of Sioux Falls that the lawsuit is political.
"This is the way they want to play the game, I guess this is the way the game will be played," Duffy said.