A former South Dakota legislative candidate who said he had a self-diagnosed addiction to pornography has pleaded guilty to two counts of incest involving a family member.

Joel Koskan, 44, had been accused of various sexual grooming behaviors. Court documents filed in November 2022 reported that there was “probable cause” that he committed rape, aggravated incest and sexual contact with a child under 16.

Koskan received 42 percent of the vote, running as a Republican for the State Senate, after the charges had been filed in 2022.

The victim, now age 20, sat in the front row on the prosecutor’s side in the main courtroom at the Hughes County Courthouse. She told the court, “It’s been going on too long, and it’s been very hard on me.” She paused and sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m just here to tell the truth and I know it’s not my fault,” she continued. She said there had been concern about what her coming forward would do to his life. “What he did to me,” she said, “is going to stay with me for life, too.”

Koskan, stood and told the judge in a nearly inaudible voice that he was “sorry for the pain and suffering” he had caused her.

Circuit Judge Margo Northrup sentenced Koskan to the maximum five years in jail for sexual penetration and the maximum five years for fellatio and fined him $10,000 on each count.

Judge Northrup told the family member that by coming forward she could now take the first step in the healing process.

“You deserve to be loved, cherished and respected by a family,” the judge insisted.

The judge said  Koskan represented a “high” risk of further inappropriate sexual activity if he remained in the home and that it would be better to re-build his family connections through treatment. Northrop got that information from a pre-sentence report.

Judge Northrop sentenced Koskan after rejecting a plea agreement pushed by the defense attorney and supported by the family member who was the victim of the incest, up until recently when she reportedly realized that some people who were influencing her didn’t have her best interests at heart.

The defense tried to paint the defendant as a wholesome man with a rural upbringing who just made a mistake. But, the judge said, there was another side to Koskan, who had begun grooming the child at a young age, had an admitted addiction to porn, installed cameras in her bedroom and her college dorm room, tried to control her activities and acted like “a jealous, protective lover,” The judge pointed out that Koskan could have been charged with more crimes implying that those uncharged crimes were the only leniency he was going to get.

State Attorney General Marty Jackley’s office issued a statement afterward. “Justice has been served in this case because the victim overcame extraordinary conditions to cooperate with the prosecution. We applaud the victim for her courage and praise the difficult work of the investigators and prosecutors.”