Plea change hearing set for former education co-op director
ARMOUR, S.D. (AP) — A former South Dakota educational cooperative director who pleaded not guilty in 2016 after being accused of helping in an embezzlement scheme has a change of plea hearing scheduled Friday, according to the attorney general’s office.
Former Mid-Central Educational Cooperative Director Dan Guericke’s hearing will be held at the Douglas County Courthouse, Attorney General Marty Jackley said in a statement Thursday. Guericke and consultant Stacy Phelps had been scheduled to go on trial next week.
The trial date comes more than three years after Mid-Central business manager Scott Westerhuis shot his wife and their four children, then set fire to their home and killed himself in September 2015. Authorities have said they believe Westerhuis and his wife stole more than $1 million before their deaths.
Guericke and Phelps are accused of backdating contracts between Mid-Central and a nonprofit organization in August 2015 before they were made available to legislative auditors. Investigators say in court records they believe the contract changes were an attempt to avoid a potential audit of the nonprofit.
An attorney for Guericke didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press. Guericke was indicted in 2016 on six felony counts alleging he falsified evidence and conspired to offer forged or fraudulent evidence. Jackley said he couldn’t discuss the hearing before it happens.
Phelps’ lawyer, Dana Hanna, said Phelps won’t change his plea.
“Not a chance,” Hanna said. “We’re going to trial. He didn’t commit any crime, and we’re going to prove it.”
A jury in June cleared a former Mid-Central staffer accused of aiding in the embezzlement scheme. Stephanie Hubers was found not guilty of grand theft, grand theft by deception and alternative receiving stolen property charges.
Prosecutors had accused Hubers of receiving about $55,000 to keep quiet about Westerhuis and his wife’s alleged stealing.