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Court: No new trial in case of alleged sexual harassment against former adult store owner

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — The South Dakota Supreme Court on Thursday ruled there should not be another trial in the case of alleged sexual harassment filed against the former owner of two adult stores in the Sioux Falls area.

Three women who worked for Annabelle's Adult Superstore in Sioux Falls and Olivia's Adult Super Store in Tea sued David Eliason, a minority owner in the business, and the stores in 2009. Two of the women said Eliason raped them and another said he harassed her.

No criminal charges were filed against Eliason.

A Minnehaha County circuit court ruled in favor of Eliason in March 2013, and the five justices unanimously agreed in a written decision issued Thursday.

Eliason, who represented himself in the civil case, did not file a document arguing his appeal but the high court said that did not constitute a confession of error or a victory for the women.

Aaron Eiesland, an attorney for one of the women, argued to the Supreme Court in March that the jury was prejudiced against the woman because she sought an abortion after the alleged rape. He told the justices that people have strong views on the abortion issue, and there was no way for jurors to set aside their beliefs after hearing that testimony.

Attorney Michael Luce, who represented the stores, said the jury heard the evidence, considered it and correctly rendered its verdict.

The Supreme Court in its decision ruled that the circuit court was correct in allowing the evidence at trial. The justices said that the evidence regarding the abortion, "was relevant" to the woman's allegation that she was raped.

Attorneys for the women had raised two other points in their appeal.

The attorneys had asked that the jury be instructed that Annabelle's and Olivia's were liable for Eliason's conduct under the "alter ego rule," which can consider a business owner and a business entity as one in the same, but the circuit court denied that request. The justices said that was correct.

And the high court also ruled that the circuit court was correct in denying a motion for mistrial based on testimony from Keith Johnson, the businesses' majority owner, about Eliason's criminal history.


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