Northrup appears in court without lawyer

Mt. Vernon hired hand facing two separate grand theft charges after second arrest

A Mt. Vernon man who was arrested twice for stealing grain totaling over $410,000 from his employers made an appearance in Davison County Court Tuesday morning without an attorney.
Merle Northrup, 46, was arrested July 20 for grand theft for allegedly stealing around $400,000 worth of grain from his employers, David and Scott Estabrook of rural Letcher. He was released the same day on $2,000 bond.
Northrup was later re-arrested for allegedly stealing over $10,000 worth of grain the day after his original arrest. He was again released on a $2,500 bond.
Northrup was employed by the Estabrooks as a hired farmhand and he often hauled grain from the Estabrook’s bin site to various elevators in the area, including POET Biorefining in Loomis and CHS in Storla. Since 2012, Northrup had begun selling some of the loads under his name, and over the years received around $400,000 in checks.
On July 20, the day Northrup was arrested, he delivered one load of corn to POET, under his name. There was also a check being prepared for Northrup for two more loads previously delivered. Police had hoped to catch Northrup with that check in his possession, but the timing did not work out, so Northrup was instead arrested at his home before POET had the check ready.
The day after his arrest, Northrup returned to POET and received the two checks, totaling around $10,000.
Northrup appeared in court Aug. 18 stating he did intend to retain an attorney. At his Tuesday morning, Oct. 4 hearing, Northrup still had not retained counsel, but stated that he did want to have an attorney represent him.
The judge granted Northrup a continuance until Nov. 1, but warned him that it was important he show up on that date with an attorney. He added that while Northrup has a right to an attorney, he doesn’t have the right to continue to stretch out the proceedings.
South Dakota law states that criminal proceedings must take place within 180 days, but delays by the defendant may allow the court to exclude periods of time. The time between Aug. 18, Northrup’s initial court appearance, and Nov. 1, his next appearance have been excluded by the court in this case.
Northrup faces two charges of grand theft: one a Class 3 felony for theft valued between $100,000 and $500,000; the other is a Class 4 felony for theft valued between $5,000 and $10,000. The Class 3 felony is punishable by 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. The Class 4 charge carries a maximum 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Charges are also pending in Sanborn County for grain sold within the county.

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