S.D. Senator Denies Groping Accusation
Wednesday, January 24, 2007; 11:33 PM
PIERRE, S.D. -- A state senator accused of groping a legislative page testified Wednesday that the 18-year-old was like a relative, that he saw nothing wrong with sharing a motel bed with him and that the teenager fabricated his accusation.
The Senate has accused Sen. Dan Sutton of sexual misconduct last February with the page. Sutton was questioned Wednesday before a Senate special committee investigating the accusation.
Asked whether he thought it was appropriate to climb into bed with Austin Wiese, Sutton responded that the page "was like a nephew or a son to me and my wife. I had no concern."
And that's where it ended, Sutton said.
"I didn't do anything," he said twice.
While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault, Wiese's name was used in the Senate committee's public hearing, which was carried live on the Internet, and has been circulated by other media in the state.
Wiese, now 19, was not present for Sutton's testimony.
Wiese told the Senate committee on Tuesday that Sutton touched his genitals on the motel bed. The alleged incident took place as Wiese was starting a stint as a page for the 2006 Legislature.
Sutton said Wiese made it up _ possibly because of his father's political ambitions or a failed business venture. Wiese's father, Dennis Wiese, lost the Democratic nomination for governor last year.
A woman who answered the telephone at Dennis Wiese's home Wednesday night said that he was not there and that she did not know how to reach him.
Sutton testified that his family and Wiese's family had been friends for years. He said that after talking with Wiese's parents, he told Austin Wiese he could stay with him in his motel room, where there was a bed and a sofa bed.
On Feb. 5, the two watched the Super Bowl and worked out, and Wiese climbed into the bed, Sutton testified. Sutton said he did not pull out the sofa bed because Wiese already was asleep.
Sutton, a Democrat from Flandreau, could be censured, disciplined or expelled when the full Senate votes. The vote is expected Jan. 31.