Republican State Senate Candidate Accused of Raping Young Family Member

South Dakota Republican State Senate candidate Joel Koskan has been charged with felony child abuse after a family member alleged he groomed and raped her for years.

The Mitchell Republic reports that Koskan, 44, was charged Thursday with one count of exposing a minor to a foreseeable harm following a months-long investigation by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. Koskan's campaign did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

The Republic cites a probable cause document that details the investigation launched in May, after a 19-year-old contacted a DCI agent to detail how Koskan had been "raping her since she was a young child."

"She explained that ever since she was young, Joel [Koskan] would give her very long hugs, kiss her and have her sit on his lap," a DCI agent wrote in the probable cause statement, The Mitchell Republic reports. "[The woman] thought that it was 'normal things' that families were supposed to do."

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The woman allegedly told camp counselors about the behavior — which she said began at age 12 — when she was 14 years old, but opted not to follow up with a social worker.

The behavior worsened over the next few years, the woman alleged to investigators, and she said Koskan began raping her when she was 17 years old.

Joel Koskan
Joel Koskan Joel Koskan

The outlet reports that the woman further alleges Koskan controls her social media accounts and monitors her whereabouts via GPS and camera systems.

Court documents show that authorities found corroborating evidence, including text messages on the woman's phone, roughly one month after the investigation was launched.

Among the messages, the outlet reports, was a text from Koskan sent the day the woman first appeared at a sheriff's office.

"You promised you'd never do this," Koskan texted in the message, according to The Mitchell Republic. "I'm begging you, you don't want to do this."

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According to court records, Koskan has been taken into custody and if convicted, could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000.

Koskan, who is currently running for the South Dakota Senate in District 26, has yet to formally withdraw his candidacy, but both his campaign website and his campaign's Twitter account have been taken down.

South Dakota GOP Chairman Dan Lederman told Forum News Service in a statement that the allegation was "very serious."

"The allegation against Joel Koskan is very serious, and the South Dakota Republican Party unequivocally opposes child abuse in all forms," Lederman said in the statement. "The South Dakota Republican Party trusts the justice system to work through the allegation."

Koskan, whose initial appearance before the count is reportedly scheduled for Monday morning. is facing just one opponent: Democrat Shawn Bordeaux.

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