A Republican running for South Dakota state Senate was charged with felony child abuse Thursday for allegedly grooming and raping his young family member for years, according to local reports.
Joel Koskan, third-time candidate for state senate, allegedly groomed and abused the young girl for at least six years starting in 2014, court documents obtained by the Mitchell Republic revealed.
Koskan, 44, could also face rape, sexual contact with a child under the age of 16 and aggravated incest-related child, according to a probable cause statement the outlet cited.
The senate-hopeful began grooming the child when she was 12 years old by having her sit on his lap, kissing her and giving long hugs, according to the court docs.
The child thought the behavior was “‘normal things’ that families were supposed to do,” an investigator wrote in the document.
She realized what Koskan was doing to her was abusive at a summer camp she attended at age 14 when counselors spoke about inappropriate physical contact with adults, according to the publication.
Koskan allegedly installed a camera in her bedroom after her return from camp that he would use to constantly watch her from an app on his phone. He also required her to straddle him without underwear, the court documents allege.
The victim said he regularly touched her inappropriately and eventually allegedly began forcing sexual intercourse after she turned 17 years old on multiple occasions in the family’s homes across the state.
Koskan controlled the child as well with location tracking, required nightly phone calls, authority over her social media accounts and jurisdiction over what she wore, the documents say.
Koskan used GPS tracking via her phone and vehicle and learned through her location that she had gone to the sheriff’s office to speak about the reported abuse, according to the documents.
“You promised you’d never do this,” Koskan texted her on May 6. “I’m begging you, you don’t want to do this.”
Other text message exchanges between the victim and the Republican appeared to confirm her story, investigators said.
Koskan was taken into custody Thursday and has an initial hearing scheduled for Nov. 7.
Since news of the alleged abuse got out, Koskan has deleted his Twitter account and made his campaign website private.
The South Dakota Democratic Party has since called for him to immediately end his campaign, the Mitchell Republic reported.
“These allegations concerning Joel Koskan are deeply disturbing, and he should immediately end his campaign,” party chairman Randy Seiler said in a statement. “While he will still appear on the ballot, the choice for the voters of District 26 couldn’t be clearer. Partisan politics aside, Joel Koskan should not be voting in the legislature on issues that affect South Dakota kids — or any issues at all.”
State Republicans also denounced any alleged abuse.
“The allegation against Joel Koskan is very serious, and the South Dakota Republican Party unequivocally opposes child abuse in all forms,” South Dakota GOP Chairman Dan Lederman said. “The South Dakota Republican Party trusts the justice system to work through the allegation.”
If convicted, Koskan can be locked behind bars for up to 10 years.
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