Jury finds former IHS pediatrician guilty of child sex abuse
RAPID CITY, S.D. — A former Indian Health Service pediatrician faces up to a lifetime in prison after a jury found him guilty on eight counts of child sexual abuse on four Native American boys at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation over the course of 16 years.
After lawyers gave their closing arguments on Friday, Sept. 27, the 12-member jury came to the unanimous decision within four hours that Stanley Patrick Weber was guilty of all eight charges lodged by the United States. As U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken began reading aloud the jury's verdicts, three women in the audience threw up their hands and sighed, began crying and hugged one another.
U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota Ron Parsons said after the verdict that Weber was "a walking, talking nightmare on the Pine Ridge Reservation."
"This defendant was the worst kind of predator there is, someone who’s placed in a position of trust — a pediatrician, for God's sake — who abuses that position of trust to rape and sexually assault the children who have been entrusted to his care," Parsons said.
After four days in court, lawyers presented their closing arguments to the jury Friday in the United States' trial against Weber, now 70, who worked as an IHS pediatrician on the Pine Ridge Reservation between 1995 and 2011. Four men who grew up on the southeastern South Dakota reservation testified this week, saying Weber repeatedly touched them sexually as children, sometimes forcing them to have anal or oral sex, and sometimes offering money, drugs or alcohol in exchange for secrecy. Most of the abuse took place in the IHS facility at Pine Ridge and Weber's home located on the reservation.
In their closing arguments, defense lawyers poked holes in prosecutors' evidence, while prosecutors said the fine details don't matter, and "what happened happened."
Harvey Steinberg, one of Weber's private defense attorneys based in Denver, during his closing arguments Friday questioned holes in the alleged victims' testimonies and in the federal agents' investigation. He pondered why investigators didn't corroborate evidence with certain victims' family members or friends, saying, "Were they afraid of the answer? Or did they just jump to conclusions, because all these kids couldn't have made it up?"
"No one is entitled to a perfect investigation," Steinberg said. "But everybody who sits in that (defense) chair today or next week is entitled to a fair investigation because the stakes are high."
Steinberg narrowed in on one particular victim, a 24-year-old from Pine Ridge who prosecutors say has cognitive and developmental difficulties.
The man grew confused during his testimony Wednesday, taking long pauses before each of his answers. When U.S. Prosecutor Sarah Collins asked him what was going through his head during each of his pauses, he said, "every bad thing that happened."
When Collins asked by whom, the man pointed to Weber sitting at the defense table, and said, "Stanley Patrick Weber."
Collins on Friday rebutted to Steinberg that just because the 24-year-old got confused "doesn't mean he's not a victim." She said the prosecutors "don't have to prove every single detail," and that "minor inconsistencies ... doesn't mean that what happened at (Weber's) hands didn't happen."
"What they didn't get wrong was the sex that they were subjected to when they were kids, at (Weber's) hands," she said.
Steinberg also on Friday pointed to differences between the men's stories: One said Weber took photos of his private parts, while others did not. One said Weber dressed in women's clothing, while others did not. Some said Weber told them they would get in trouble if they told anyone, while others said Weber gave them money or drugs to stay quiet.
Because of these differences, Steinberg said prosecutors failed to prove a pattern in Weber's behavior, and that the allegations cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Collins retorted that differences were because Weber tailored his treatment to each of the boys — that he "carefully selected his victims" and "carefully selected their grooming."
As their doctor, Collins said Weber "had access to the deepest parts of these boys," knowing whether they came from broken homes, if their families were impoverished, their drug and alcohol use, or whether they had cognitive difficulties. His treatment differed based on those factors, she said.
Parsons said after Friday's verdict that he commends "the bravery and courage of the men who came forward to testify," calling their testimonies "the most difficult thing they had to do in their lives."
"I know that this verdict will bring them some measure of justice, and I hope that it brings them some measure of peace," he said.
Pauletta Red Willow, one of the women in the audience who cried Friday, assisted in the investigation of Weber and currently operates a youth shelter called Maggie's Home at Pine Ridge. After the verdict, she said IHS and tribal officials who knew of Weber's abuses need to be held accountable, and that "we have to do better for our kids" so a case like Weber's can't happen again.
"They don't know what love is because they weren't shown it," she said. "How sad is that?"
Weber has already been convicted by a jury of four child sex abuse crimes committed on two victims while he worked as a pediatrician on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana between 1992 and 1995. He is appealing that decision.
It is unclear whether Weber will appeal the South Dakota jury's verdict. Steinberg did not respond to a request for comment.
Weber was found guilty on five counts of aggravated sexual abuse, a crime for which he could be sentenced a minimum of 30 years in prison, and up to life. He was found guilty on three counts of sexual abuse of a minor, for which the maximum sentence is 15 years in prison.