Jury Selected in First Mid-Central Trial
One of the defendants connected to the Mid-Central Education Cooperative investigation is facing trial in Sioux Falls this week. Stephanie Hubers has pleaded not guilty to felony charges that include grand theft or alternative counts of receiving stolen property. The jury reports Tuesday morning.
Hubers was an assistant manager with Mid-Central Education Cooperative. She worked with both Scott and Nicole Westerhuis, who embezzled more than a million dollars through the organization before their deaths in 2015.
The trial was moved to Sioux Falls after council argued she would not receive a fair trial in Charles-Mix County. The process of choosing potential jurors was still largely shaped by their ability to presume Hubers’ innocence until proven guilty. Several jurors were dismissed when they admitted they could not presume innocence based on opinions formed by media coverage and other conversations. Judge Bruce Anderson is presiding over the trial, and told jurors it is their constitutional mandate to make their choice only after all evidence is offered in the court proceedings. He says jurors must “throw out” everything else.
Clint Sargant of Meierhenry and Sargent Lawfirm in Sioux Falls is leading the defense. During questioning, he focused on jurors’ experiences of knowing the financial details of others’ lives, and if they’d ever learned someone close to them was keeping a big secret. Sargant also asked potential jurors to consider the phrase “Monday Morning Quarterback,” and to ask themselves if advice after the fact is really helpful.
Attorney General Marty Jackley is leading the prosecution. He brought attention to the differences between salaried and hourly wages, and asked what jurors would do if they found a coworker was engaging in illegal activities. He also asked if their responses to the Monday Morning Quarterback prompt would change if the incident took place over several years rather than a single instance.
A total of eight men and six women were selected to serve on the jury. Two of them will serve as alternates. The trial is expected to last through Friday.