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Former South Dakota Lawmaker Charged With Sex Crimes Against 2 Teen Girls

Updated:
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) _ A former state House member was arrested Friday on charges of rape and other sexual offenses against two teen girls.

Republican Ted A. Klaudt surrendered at the Corson County Sheriff's office. He did not enter a plea during two court appearances, and bond was set at $100,000. He was taken to jail and declined to comment as he left the courtroom.

The charges against him include eight counts of second-degree rape, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, one count of sexual contact with a child younger than 16, two counts of witness tampering and one count of stalking. Some of the rape charges carry penalties of up to 50 years in prison.

The accusers were aged 15 to 19 over the years the crimes are to have occurred. One girl was molested when she was a legislative page, authorities allege.

The girls told law officers that Klaudt touched their genitals during what he called exams for a purported scheme to have them donate their eggs to make money, Long said.

``He was convincing these girls they were candidates for donation of their eggs, that this would be a significant financial advantage to them and it was necessary for him to perform these acts on the girls to determine if they would be viable candidates for the procedure,'' Long told The Associated Press.

The two girls were among a number of children who were sent to foster care in Klaudt's home under a program that provides foster care for young people who have no safe home to return to after completing programs in juvenile corrections facilities. He had taken in participants of the program since 2001.

The state Corrections Department announced Friday it is conducting a review of its foster care program, and is interviewing participants.

The investigation started when one of the girls made a complaint that was forwarded to the state Department of Social Services, which then contacted the state Division of Criminal Investigation, Long said.

A written affidavit filed in court by Long said Klaudt initially denied performing ``tests'' on the girls, but he changed his story after investigators confronted him with copies of e-mails he sent to one of the girls.

Klaudt then said ``maybe I did some things I shouldn't have,'' the attorney general wrote.

Klaudt, 49, farms and ranches near the tiny town of Walker not far from the North Dakota border. He served in the House eight years, the final two as vice chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, but lost a 2006 run for the state Senate.

Klaudt's arrest is the second time in a year that the South Dakota Legislature has been rocked by allegations of improper sexual conduct.

In January, the Senate censured Democrat Dan Sutton after he was accused of fondling an 18-year-old legislative page when they shared a motel room during the 2006 legislative session. Sutton denied the allegation and was re-elected.
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