Minnehaha County Courthouse cops spring into action
Judge attacked with cellphone days before escape attempt
Minnehaha County taxpayers got their money’s worth out of courthouse security last week.
Deputies with the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office who are assigned to provide watch over court proceedings screen more than a thousand visitors to the downtown Sioux Falls justice center on any given day.
And while most days are routine and without major incident, that wasn’t the case on two occasions last week when deputies were forced into action after two convicts were anything but pleased with prison sentences they’d been given.
According to the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office, deputies on Jan. 29 and again on Feb. 1 had to make two courthouse arrests after suspects lashed out in court — one throwing a phone at a judge and another dashing out of the courtroom in hopes of avoiding a trip to the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
“It’s surprisingly rare,” Minnehaha County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jeff Gromer told The Dakota Scout, referring to courthouse officers having to spring into action. “So it’s interesting that we had two last week and when it’s not overly common.”
In both instances, Gromer said the individuals involved in the incidents had been given prison sentences for felony crimes before responding by committing more crimes while in the presence of authorities.
On Jan. 29, 38-year-old Christine McCauley was in a fourth-floor courtroom for a sentencing hearing for an aggravated assault conviction. And when the judge gave her four years behind bars, the Sioux Falls woman — who’d been out on bail — threw her phone at the judge. Though it missed the target, it did strike the bench.
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Now, McCauley faces new charges: simple assault, resisting arrest, obstructing, and third-degree intentional damage to property.
Two days later, and in the same courtroom, 40-year-old Nathan Lecocq had been sentenced to seven years in prison with three suspended when he suddenly attempted to flee the courthouse, according to Gromer.
He didn’t get far.
“He tried to bolt out of the courtroom,” Gromer said. “Our courtroom officer was able to get ahold of him and get him restrained and taken to jail in the fourth floor lobby area.”
Both Lecocq and the deputy who made the arrest sustained minor injuries in the scuffle.
Lecocq is now faces new charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, first-degree escape and simple assault on a law enforcement officer.
The Attorney General’s Office is the prosecuting agency in both cases, due to members of the State’s Attorney’s Office being called as potential witnesses to the incidents.