The trial for one of three defendants charged in the GEAR UP Scandal is underway in Sioux Falls. Stephanie Hubers - the former assistant business manager for Mid-Central Educational Cooperative - has pleaded not guilty to grand theft and receiving stolen property.
Tuesday morning Attorney General Marty Jackley made the opening statement for the state while Hubers' attorney Clint Sargent did the same for the defense.
Jackley began his opening statement by taking jurors back to 2015 when Mid-Central Educational Cooperative business manager Scott Westerhuis killed his wife and children in a murder-suicide. The incident eventually led to a financial investigation and the Gear Up scandal. During this trial, Jackley says the state will prove that Hubers not only knew what Scott was up to but actively participated in theft. Jackley says Hubers gained about $55,000 from the American Indian Institute for Innovation over five years while providing no services. AIII of it was run by Scott and Nicole Westerhuis. Jackley says the Westerhuis’ and Hubers’ families were so close, they went boating and traveled to Disney World together. Jackley also says Hubers was the Power of Attorney for Scott's mother.
Meanwhile, Hubers' attorney Clint Sargent says his client "didn't steal a thing." He says Scott Westerhuis came to Hubers in 2009, an assistant at Mid-Central, wanting to give her a raise but he didn't get approval from Mid-Central Executive Director Dan Guericke. Instead, Scott, who also was the business manager for AIII, offered her additional work with that organization. In exchange for roughly $833 a month, she needed to be on-call and available for projects. Hubers wasn't an employee of AIII, more like an independent contractor. She made $10,000 a year between 2009-2014. Sargent says Hubers wasn't the only one under this type of arrangement. He also says his client didn't know what schemes Scott and Nicole Westerhuis were up to until 2015. At that time, Sargent says Hubers and everybody else were surprised to find out the Westerhuises were quote "liars and thieves." Sargent says Hubers relied on Scott Westerhuis, a respected person in the education business, and trusted him. He told the jury there is no proof showing that Hubers knew Westerhuis was doing anything wrong.
The case will continue at the Minnehaha County Courthouse all week under the watch of Judge Bruce Anderson. Stacy Phelps and Dan Guericke are scheduled to stand trial next month for their roles in the GEAR UP scandal.
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