Woman pleads guilty to another crime 11 days after sentence reduction by Noem
Court documents in the Danielle Blakney case. (Illustration by South Dakota Searchlight)
A woman released from prison less than two weeks ago by Gov. Kristi Noem has pleaded guilty to another criminal charge that was pending while the woman was in prison.
Danielle Blakney, 30, of Spearfish, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Lawrence County court to one count of simple assault.
As part of a plea agreement, the prosecutor dropped another count of simple assault and a charge of intentional damage to property. A judge sentenced Blakney to 30 days in jail but suspended all of that time on several conditions, including that Blakney remain law-abiding for 360 days.
Blakney was one of seven people who received a reduced prison sentence — known as a “commutation” — from Gov. Noem on Christmas Eve. Noem reduced the seven prisoners’ sentences to supervised parole for the remainder of their terms.
“These seven individuals have each earned a second chance,” Noem said in a news release at the time. “Each of these individuals has demonstrated a low risk of recidivism.”
Blakney’s path to prison, a commutation from the governor, and back to a Lawrence County courtroom started with a lengthy criminal history culminating in a 2021 arrest.
Noem goes against board, victims’ families and review process to reduce prison sentences
In August of that year, a law enforcement officer pulled Blakney over for expired license plate tags and found marijuana, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in her vehicle. Blakney faced charges including possession of a controlled drug or substance and driving under the influence. Court documents in the case said she already had multiple felony convictions on her record.
While Blakney was on supervised release awaiting the outcome of that case, court documents say she was at a home in Spearfish in July 2022 when she allegedly knocked over a TV tray, pushed a woman to the floor, and smashed the windshield of a man’s car. That incident resulted in the assault and property-damage charges.
Blakney pleaded guilty to the drug and DUI charges in September 2022 and was sentenced to eight years in prison, with four suspended on the condition that she pay several hundred dollars in costs associated with the case.
The judge wrote in the sentencing order that Blakney “is not a candidate for probation and needs a structured environment to continue her necessary sobriety.” The judge noted her long criminal history, use of a variety of drugs and previous probation violations.
Blakney had served about three months of that multi-year prison term when Noem commuted the sentence on Christmas Eve and ordered Blakney’s release on parole.
The assault and property damage charges remained pending while Blakney was in prison, which led to her court appearance this week. Attorneys on both sides of this week’s court appearance did not immediately return phone messages from South Dakota Searchlight.
Gov. Noem has not publicly revealed the process she used to consider the seven Christmas Eve commutations, or how the seven people who benefitted from the commutations came to Noem’s attention from a state prison population of more than 3,000 people. Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, has not responded to phone messages or emails from South Dakota Searchlight seeking an interview or answers to questions, other than to acknowledge a Searchlight document request.
At least one of the seven people had been denied a commutation recommendation by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. South Dakota Searchlight could find no record of the other six cases being considered by the board. The state constitution allows Noem to bypass the board, but she issued an executive order in 2019 requiring that commutation applications go to the board for its consideration and recommendation.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.