Most of the 40 or so onlookers stood to cheer and applaud Thursday morning after a judge dismissed witness-tampering- and perjury-related charges against two Aberdeen residents.
Hugs, handshakes and even a few tears followed as the trial, which began Monday, suddenly came to an end without the defense having to call a single witness.
Saying he didn't want the jury to get bogged down with office politics, substandard work by an investigator or a dispute between the defendants and the state Department of Social Services, Judge Gene Paul Kean granted a Wednesday motion filed by defense attorneys to have the remaining charges dismissed.
The judge said there simply wasn't enough proof against Schwab and Taliaferro, both of whom did court-appointed child advocacy work in Brown County before they were charged, to move the case along to a jury.
Kean said it was only the third time in his career that he's taken such action. A retired circuit court judge from Sioux Falls, he was handling the Schwab-Taliaferro case because Brown County judges had conflicts of interest from involvement in related cases.
Throughout the trial, most of the people in the courtroom were supporters of the defendants. They listened quietly as the judge explained his decision, then started their celebration as the hearing ended.
At one time, Schwab, 63, headed the Court Appointed Special Advocates office in Aberdeen. She still does child advocacy work.
Taliaferro, 31, was a deputy state's attorney for Brown County until he was fired by then-State's Attorney Kimberly Dorsett in September 2011.
Mike Butler, the Sioux Falls attorney who represented Taliaferro, said that what happened to his client - a bright, dedicated representative of victims of horrendous abuse - was a tragedy. That case had no business going to court, Butler said.
"I would like to know the answer to that," Butler said, when asked why he believed the charges were filed.
Sioux Falls attorney Stephanie Amiotte, Schwab's lawyer, said personality conflicts were likely one reason her client was charged.
"A travesty of justice has been remedied against my client by Judge Kean's well-reasoned opinion today. I am appalled at the state's attempt to prosecute Shirley Schwab for doing her job as a court-appointed special advocate. She was innocent of all charges and was prosecuted despite a complete lack of evidence," Amiotte said.
Overlooked in the Schwab-Taliaferro trial was a larger issue that children were badly abused, Amiotte said. She said the adults in the case were supposed to be working together to protect the kids, but their conflicts got in the way. People like Schwab, who are dedicated to protecting children, are vital, Amiotte said.
Mike Moore, Beadle County state's attorney, prosecuted the case because of conflicts of interest at the Brown County State's Attorney's Office. He rested the prosecution's case Wednesday afternoon. He said he respected Kean's decision but disagreed with it.
Moore said he still believes that crimes were committed, but granted that others could come up with a different opinion in looking at how the laws are written. But, he said, there's no way to look at the emails sent and the gifts given in the case and not have concerns about the revelations a juvenile sexual abuse victim made.
The crux of Moore's case against Schwab and Taliaferro was that they conspired with Aberdeen therapist Fran Sippel to get a girl to say that Wendy Larson (formerly Mette), her adoptive mom, knew that Richard Mette, her adoptive father, was abusing her. His argument was that Schwab and Taliaferro, through emails, asked Sippel to get specific disclosures from the girl about Larson knowing about the abuse. Moore also argued that, with help from Schwab and Taliaferro, Sippel procured the disclosures in the days leading up to a grand jury hearing that led to Larson being charged with child abuse and neglect.
Larson and Mette were married at the time of the abuse, but have since divorced.
Schwab and Taliaferro each faced three felony subornation of perjury charges. That is procuring another to lie under oath.
Kean noted that those charges were related to Sippel allegedly lying. But no evidence was presented about what she said that was false, the judge said.
Schwab and Taliaferro were both charged with one felony witness-tampering count for allegedly giving the abuse victim and her siblings gifts and gift cards. But, Kean said, he didn't see a violation of law and no testimony was presented about what the children were supposed to testify about in return for the gifts.