VERMILLION — A former high school teacher in the Vermillion School District who pleaded guilty earlier this year to stalking, a Class 1 misdemeanor and child abuse, a Class 4 felony, will spend 90 days of an eight-year sentence in the South Dakota State Penitentiary on the child abuse charge.
The remainder of the penitentiary sentence for Jeickson Pichardo-Castillo, 24, has been suspended and he will be on probation for eight years.
Pichardo-Castillo was sentenced to a 10-day suspended term in the Clay County Jail for stalking.
The disposition of the punishment for these two charges is defined in court papers as “Suspended Execution of Sentence.” Under state law, upon conviction, a sentencing court may suspend any portion of a penitentiary sentence subject to conditions or restrictions as the court may impose.
Pichardo-Castillo pleaded guilty to the stalking and child abuse charges on April 13. The sentences for those two pleas were imposed on July 14.
Several other charges that he faced were dismissed.
Following an investigation that began over a year ago, the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation filed a warrant for the arrest of Pichardo-Castillo, 23, on Aug. 19, 2021.
He made his first court appearance in the Clay County Courthouse in Vermillion on Aug. 31, 2021.
He was accused of allegedly committing the following offenses, according to an affidavit filed by a DCI agent on Aug. 18, 2021:
2. Contributing to Delinquency or Causing a Child to Become a Child in Need of ‘Supervision’
3. Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor Under the Age of 18
4. Unauthorized Operation of a Motor Vehicle
5. Solicitation of a Minor
6. Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
According to a criminal complaint filed Aug. 18, 2021, Pichardo-Castillo is alleged to have:
• Solicited a minor sometime between May 1 and May 19, 2021, to engage in a prohibited sexual act, a Class 4 felony.
• Committed the public offense of sexual exploitation of a minor sometime between March 1 and May 19, 2021. It is alleged that Pichardo-Castillo caused or knowingly permitted a minor to engage in an activity or simulation of an activity that is obscene, which is a Class 6 felony.
• Stalked a person between Nov. 1, 2020, and Aug. 15, 2021, by maliciously following them, or in the alternative, stalked a person by means of any verbal, electronic, digital media, or written communication. This charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
• Contributed to or caused a child to become a child in need of supervision on May 7, 2021, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
• Furnished alcohol to a minor on May 7, 2021, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
• Operated a motor vehicle without the permission of its owner on May 6, 2021, a Class 1 misdemeanor.
According to the DCI affidavit, Pichardo-Castillo, who at the time was a Spanish teacher for the Vermillion School District, began electronically messaging a 15-year-old female around December 2020. The DCI investigator described him as using “grooming behavior” through these messages which continued until after the female turned 16.
According to the affidavit, the victim reported that following March 2021 and lasting until Aug. 15, 2021, Pichardo-Castillo harassed her with malicious messages. He would yell at her, demanding to know her activities at various times and would also get details of her activities from her classmates.
The teenager reported during Facetime calls in May 2021 that Pichardo-Castillo stated he wanted to perform sexual acts with her and made other comments of a sexual nature during electronic communications with the teen that month.
The affidavit also describes the teen stating that, several times in April and May 2020, Pichardo-Castillo provided her with alcohol and vaping materials.
The affidavit states that, according to the teenager, Pichardo-Castillo gained access and unauthorized control of her car while it was parked in the Vermillion High School parking lot.
During this time, Pichardo-Castillo was employed as a teacher and the teenager was a student, the affidavit states.
The DCI agent interviewed Pichardo-Castillo on Aug. 17, 2021. According to the affidavit, he admitted to making comments that were possibly “inappropriate” to the teenager but denied any sexual contact or sexual talk. He did state that around January or February 2021, he spoke with the teenager about prior sex.
The Vermillion School Board approved Pichardo-Castillo’s resignation at an Aug. 24, 2021, special meeting.
Pichardo-Castillo was released from jail following his Aug. 31, 2021, court appearance. His bond was set at $5,000.
Pichardo-Castillo’s probation prohibits him from having contact with persons under the age of 18, either at his employment or in his personal life, unless directly supervised by the child’s parent or guardian. The only exception to him being around minor children without adult parent supervision would be if they are his own children.
It is the intention of the probation that he doesn’t have supervisory authority over juveniles and incidental contact in the community is not a violation.