Scott interviews reporter Arielle Zionts about her recent story about a pregnant South Dakota woman who died of COVID-19 in federal prison. Andrea Circle Bear, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, was charged under an obscure law in connection with a drug sale in which she herself was likely not a primary participant. She was sentenced to two years in a federal prison hundreds of miles from her home. She later contracted COVID-19, and died in April, though not before delivering her baby via C-section. Zionts continues to search for answers about where Circle Bear contracted the illness, and more importantly why a pregnant woman was treated this way in the first place.
Discussed on the show:
- “Grandmother says Eagle Butte woman should have never been transferred to prison while pregnant” (Rapid City Journal)
Arielle Zionts is a criminal justice reporter at the Rapid City Journal. Follow her on Twitter @Ajzionts.
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The following is an automatically generated transcript.
All right, y’all welcome it’s Scott Horton Show. I am the director of the Libertarian Institute editorial director of antiwar.com, author of the book Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan. And I’ve recorded more than 5000 interviews going back to 2003, all of which are available at ScottHorton.org. You can also sign up to the podcast feed. The full archive is also available at youtube.com/ScottHortonShow. All right, you guys introducing Arielle Zionts from the Rapid City journal. They’re in South Dakota author of this important news story. Grandmother says Eagle Butte woman should have never been transferred to prison while pregnant. Welcome to the show. How are you doing?
Arielle Zionts 0:59
I’m good. How are you doing?
Scott Horton 1:00
I’m doing great. I really appreciate you joining us here on the show today. So this is the story of is it Andrea or Andrea?
Arielle Zionts 1:11
Andrea but her family she goes by Andy. Andy
Scott Horton 1:14
circle bear. Okay.
Arielle Zionts 1:16
Also her maiden name is Hibear. And that’s actually how her how her obituary was written. I see.
Scott Horton 1:23
Okay, and yeah, and then the reason that she’s dead is because she got COVID in prison, and what was she doing in prison?
Arielle Zionts 1:33
Scott Horton 2:42
Because it sounds like and I guess I’m speculating a little bit here. But it sounds like that law is written for people who own a house, but then someone who lives there sells the drugs out of it, and they try to pretend that they’re deniable, but this law is to make that not good enough, but here she’s just a guest. At a house where drugs are being sold,
Arielle Zionts 3:04
right, or maybe they’re interpreting it as she helped maintain the house like she.
Scott Horton 3:09
And can you say why these led to federal charges rather than just local charges?
Arielle Zionts 3:16
Sure, because it was on the Cheyenne River sutra, sorry, the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. So most bigger crimes like it’s called, like the Major Crimes Act will automatically go to federal prosecution. I also believe that drug cases if they’re big drug cases can go to federal to the federal level.
Scott Horton 3:37
Were they selling crack and meth to schoolchildren or what exactly was the
Arielle Zionts 3:42
it was it said mess it did not mention? I mean, the person who she sold it to wasn’t a informed informant. So an unclear if that means it was a undercover agent or a you know, civilian acting on behalf Half of the government,
Scott Horton 4:02
but it was somebody else who was charged with actually selling the drugs. She was just charged with being there. Is that right?
Arielle Zionts 4:07
Well, that’s actually unclear. If anyone else was charged in conjunction with her case, that’s something I can look into.
Scott Horton 4:15
I see. But so the record of it at the time, whatever journalism was done at the time, it didn’t say whether there were there was more than one person charge.
Arielle Zionts 4:26
I mean, this was such a low. This is this is not something that you would even typically report on when it happened. It’s not because again, it’s not a major drug distribution ring that’s
Scott Horton 4:38
based on the charges. That sounds like she was nearby when someone else sold meth to someone else. And she got two years in the federal pen for that.
Arielle Zionts 4:47
Yeah, it did say that she did actually do the South sales, but she may have just been working on behalf of someone and not have been the main distributor but yeah, she got sentenced to 26 months which is just over two years. But what’s also important to know is she would have actually served several months less than that, because she got you get credit for time served when it’s federal pieces. And she had been, you know, when she was initially arrested. She had a few days or weeks of credit for that. I’m not sure how long before she was released pre trial. But then once she pleaded guilty, which was back in October 2019. She had been jailed mostly since that and she had a few times she was furloughed.
Scott Horton 5:31
I see and jail. Do you mean in the local jail awaiting transfer to the federal lockup?
Arielle Zionts 5:36
Yes. And she was actually held in we know of two jails, the one in Pier, which is close to the court where she would have been where she would have had her case and then in winner, which is south of that.
Scott Horton 5:52
And then can you tell us why it was that she was transferred to Fort Worth, Texas?
Arielle Zionts 5:58
Yes, again, because it’s a federal case. So when you are sentenced to federal prison, you go anywhere in the country and the only prison in South Dakota only federal prison in South Dakota is a men’s low security facility. So she’s a woman so she couldn’t go there. And then what’s interesting is that the prison she was sentenced to, is the only it’s a medical specialty prison for women, and it’s the only one for women. So they’re they’re basically acknowledging that she, you know, because of her pregnancy and her her pregnancy, the pregnancy itself wasn’t necessarily high risk, but the birth was, and this is according to my sister who’s a midwife, because she’s had multiple previous c sections. And anytime you give birth after multiple c sections, the birth itself has high risk,
Scott Horton 6:54
high C. And so now they think that she was Sick and somewhere either in the jail or during the transfer because she arrived sick in Fort Worth.
Arielle Zionts 7:09
I don’t believe she arrived sick her grandma. She called her grandma right when she arrived. So there’s a new rule with Coronavirus once you arrive. Everyone is quarantine for 14 days. So she called her grandma to say, hey, heads up, I’m going to quarantine it, we’ll be able to call you. She did not mention being sick to her grandma then. But maybe she was rushed for time and didn’t mention it. But again, we still don’t know where she got it because you can contract it earlier and then not show symptoms. So it could have been at the Winter jail. It could have been from the US Marshals or someone on the plane. Or it could have been when she was in the prison winner that the county it’s in it has zero cases. But I mean there are asymptomatic people. But I mean theoretically it could be we do it. We don’t know where it is. And that’s something no one yet has answered me. You know, who will be doing that investigation doing that contact tracing? That’s something I’m working on figuring out.
Scott Horton 8:06
And then so what’s this about a whistleblower complaining that they knew that she was a suspected symptomatic case that day, which day? Is that? That they’re referring to you?
Arielle Zionts 8:18
Sure. That’s the 28th. Let me pull up this timeline. I’m sorry. Oh, yes, Mark. Yes, March 28. Okay. And this credit to that whistleblower complaint was discovered by Vice News. So in their press release, the Bureau of Prisons, said yes, she went to the hospital on March 28. But they just said it was for pregnancy concerns. Whereas the whistleblower complaint should know the prison was treating her as a suspected case by that date. her grandma also said that when she talked to her on the 31st, she mentioned being sick for several days and then A Texas TV news outlet. This is really interesting. You know, when she gave birth, they which was let’s see, April 1, they reported on the birth through hospital sources. And again, those hospital sources say that during that first visit on March 28, she also had symptoms. So there’s at least three sources, hospital sources, the whistleblower complaint, and the grandma who all say that she was sick, at least by the 28th.
Scott Horton 9:37
And then, she says that she was sick in the prison for a few days before they ever sent her to the hospital.
Arielle Zionts 9:45
Well, they did send her to the hospital on March 28. But again, the Bureau of Prisons said that was only related to pregnancy concerns.
Scott Horton 9:52
So it was the hospital that was ignoring her sickness.
Arielle Zionts 9:56
That’s that’s an I guess it would have been the prison. You Yes, I’m sorry. Yes, I guess it would have been the hospital that would have decided to discharge her. Of course, the prison could have brought her back between the 28th and the 31st. And in terms of the prison discharging her, I mean, this is something we’re seeing with Coronavirus all over, it’s pretty hard to get admitted to the hospital, even if you’re, you know, even if you have symptoms, even if you test positive, there’s certain requirements for you to become an inpatient. And that that does seem to be based on you know, medical reasons. We just don’t know why they made that specific decision in this case to send her back to prison.
Scott Horton 10:39
Mm hmm. Um, and then, so I’m sorry, I’m getting my dates confused when they send her back. That was that was how many days after she’d given birth?
Arielle Zionts 10:49
No, no, that that was for sure. So March 28, was her first visit to the hospital. That’s the one where she was unsent back and this is the one where the Bureau of Prisons It says it was related to pregnancy concerns. But the three other sources say no, she also had COVID symptoms I see. Then she went back on March 31. That’s when she was permanently admitted. And she never left. That’s where she died.
Scott Horton 11:13
And then the baby was born the next day. And then when did she die? April the what? Do you remember she
Arielle Zionts 11:18
died April 28. And what’s also interesting is that when she was admitted on March 31, she was well enough to speak to her grandmother on the phone.
Scott Horton 11:28
So she was on a ventilator for the whole month of April then.
Arielle Zionts 11:32
Yes, I sent elated, because they mentioned that she gave birth to a C section wall ventilated. So sometime after she spoke to her grandma on the 31st in between giving birth the next day, she was ventilated already.
Scott Horton 11:46
I see. And then she didn’t die until just a few days ago.
Arielle Zionts 11:50
Scott Horton 11:52
Hold on just one second Be right back. So you’re constantly buying things from amazon.com. Well, that makes sense. They bring them right to your house. So what you do though, is Click through from the link in the right hand margin at Scott Horton. org. And I’ll get a little bit of a kickback from Amazon’s into the sale won’t cost you a thing. Nice little way to help support the show. Again, that’s right there in the margin at Scott Horton. org. Hey, I’ll check it out the libertarian Institute. That’s me and my friends have published three great books this year. First is no quarter, the ravings of William Norman Greg. He was the best one of us. Now he’s gone. But this great collection is a truly fitting legacy for his fight for freedom. I know you’ll love it. Then there’s coming to Palestine by the great Sheldon Richmond. It’s a collection of 40 important essays. He’s written over the years about the truth behind the Israel Palestine conflict. You’ll learn so much and highly valued this definitive libertarian take on the dispossession of the Palestinians and the reality of their brutal occupation. And last but not least, is the great Ron Paul. The Scott Horton show interviews 2004 through 2019 edition. transcripts of all of my interviews of the good doctor over the years on all the wars, money taxes, the police state and more. So how do you like that? Pretty good, right? Find them all at libertarian Institute. org slash books. You need stickers for your band your business will Rick and the guys over the bumper sticker.com have got you covered great work great prices, sticky things with things printed on them. Whatever you need the bumper sticker calm we’ll get it done right for you. The bumper sticker calm. There’s a few quotes in here from the different people all denied that it was their responsibility right the prison says it was the hospital and the hospital says it was the prison and then they all agree that nobody knows and it’s nobody’s fault
Arielle Zionts 13:44
that I haven’t spoken with anyone with the hospital but basically had the chain of people are kind of deferring it to other agencies. So the Bureau of Prisons is saying, look, we are limiting internal transfers. You know from one person to another, but we have our hands are tied, we have no choice but to accept inmates that the marshals bring to us and then the marshal say we have no choice but to bring them to the prison when the prison requests it. And then the jail says are, what the marshals came to take to get her. And then the marshals and this is something not in the story. This will be in a follow up story because they responded after I published it. The Marshal said that they received clearance from her healthcare provider for her to fly. They will not say who that healthcare provider is a neither with a jail, but it’s I mean, I imagine it would be a jail staffer or a jail did tell me that they have their own medical staff and they also have contractors so someone cleared the flying for the marshals. And I’ve emailed the Department of Justice. They have not responded basically, I’m asking them you know, will you investigate first how she, how she got where she got sick was she properly cared for, but also, the Department of Justice has acknowledged the danger of Coronavirus to inmates. They’ve told prosecutors keep the pandemic in mind when you request pretrial detention, they’ve told and then they’ve told the prisons to evaluate who they can send release on home release, like home detention. I mean, I don’t know how good of a job they’re doing, releasing people but the point is they’ve at least acknowledged it. Whereas it seems like they’ve taken zero steps for protecting people going to prison for the first time like Andrea. So that’s the one of the questions I’ve asked them is in the given her death will you consider creating precautions or delaying transfers for help? high risk patients. They have not answered.
Scott Horton 16:04
Yeah. Well, you know, you brought up there about the hospitals turning people away. And there have been reports, there’s one just the other day of a guy that they turned away two or three times. In fact, there is a lady in my county, here in Central Texas, who they turned away two or three times before they finally let her in. And then it was too late happened to a guy I was reading about just the other day. So it sounds like that’s the most likely explanation here’s they should let her in on the 28th. Maybe she would have died anyway. Sounds like she was on a ventilator the whole time. But if they had or at least enhanced birth, then I’m sorry.
Arielle Zionts 16:41
Or they also they didn’t test her on her after she arrived. So maybe maybe she wasn’t maybe she didn’t have symptoms sick enough to be, you know, admitted but maybe giving her a test. But again, we’re they’re not going to talk about their individual decisions about an individual patient.
Scott Horton 17:01
Right? But it does make sense that if even if she didn’t check all the boxes, if she’s almost do and has COVID that might be enough to to get in there and then, you know, if they’d begun treatment a few days earlier then it seems like there’s, you know, in the margin, that means that she probably would have had a better chance, but she certainly would have had a better chance if she hadn’t been in custody at all. Right. But, you know, just a little bit more collateral damage and the war on drugs I’m pretty sure that South Dakota’s methamphetamine problem is solved now though, right? She’s not
Arielle Zionts 17:40
No, there’s still a it’s still a crisis here.
Scott Horton 17:50
Yeah, and arresting and killing all the Indians isn’t solving it somehow. All right. Well, I kind of ran out of I have questions to ask you here, but I’m sure I must be missing some kind of important detail or another. Is there something else I should, we should focus on here.
Arielle Zionts 18:09
I’m sure we’ll just make if you want to know a little bit more about Andrea, I can tell you about her sure you know who she was as a person. So she was 30. And she already had five kids and you know, she was pregnant with her six. The baby survived after the C section. So now she has six children without a mother. She’s a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Um, her grandmother describes her as as being really close to her family. And then really spending most of her time as a full time stay at home mother since she had so many children and she really loved them and there’s just some sad and, you know, quotes but it also shows how much she cared for her family. So like I said her, she called when she was admitted on the 31st And she, the grandmother said that Andrea mentioned that she said this quote, she told me that she loved me and told me to tell her kids that she loved them. So basically that was, even though she was being admitted to prison, I’m sorry. Even though she wasn’t being admitted to the hospital. She was asking her grandmother to make sure that her children are cared for and to make sure they know that she loves them. So I just think that shows something about her personality. And then another sad thing is that the grandma drove all the way down to Texas to pick up the her great grandson, Andrea’s child, and wasn’t even though they were in the same hospital, obviously, different units wasn’t allowed to see Andrea even through a window. I mean, obviously, there’s COVID-19 prevention method methods and you’re not allowed to be in the same room with them. But they wouldn’t even let her see her through a window. grandmother said that doctors told her that was on the order of the prison, but that’s not 100% clear. But I just either way that’s just a very sad thought to think that she was so physically close to seeing her granddaughter and wasn’t able to.
Scott Horton 20:16
Yeah. Well, and obviously, you know, sounds pretty clear here too, that she wasn’t allowed and he wasn’t allowed to spend any time with her newborn baby either.
Arielle Zionts 20:27
No, she would have been, yeah, like, heavily sedated. And I and the baby was premature. So the baby would have been, you know, immediately put in the you know, in an incubator or under, you know, neonatal care for
Scott Horton 20:43
so and then. I mean, I guess so then she died so she was in an induced coma and died while unconscious on the machine. Do you know?
Arielle Zionts 20:53
I don’t the grandma didn’t know if she was, you know, in a coma and I’m not sure about the exact medical state But the grandma said she would have been heavily a my understanding is if you’re on a ventilator you are heavily seduced by drugs are just not aware of yourself. Right naturally. But
Scott Horton 21:11
yeah, yeah, it really is sad, sad for the surviving kids and the grandma and for her to to die alone like that over a little bit of speed, which is nothing. Yes.
Arielle Zionts 21:27
Let’s see what else and she was her body was returned and she was buried yesterday. So Thursday, and it was, you know, a small family funeral since the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe like and then their funeral home like all others are taking precautions and not allowing mass gatherings.
Scott Horton 21:45
Yeah. I guess the reason this has gotten a lot of national attention have seen the headline going around and that kind of thing is because of the COVID tie. But this kind of thing happens all the time to pour in and minority Especially but not only get caught up on selling drugs to a willing customer as as you were talking about a lot of times, an undercover cop pretending to be a willing customer, and then you know, all of them adults, and then they go off to prison and for one reason or another never make a home again.
Arielle Zionts 22:22
And the judge, if you look at his sentencing recommendations, like he admitted that she needed treatment because he so judges can recommend a prison for people and recommend they be part of specific programs, but it’s ultimately up to the Bureau of Prisons, but he recommended that she he called her an excellent candidate for their drug treatment program. So he admitted that yes, she needs help herself.
Scott Horton 22:48
Yeah, well, too late for that now. Yes. And then but so I hope in your follow up, that you’ll be hunting down the story to where it was that she got Have there been any of these marshals have come down six since then? Or was it in the holding facility or where it was that she put that up?
Yeah, that’s something I’m trying to track down. I’ve contacted the I need to contact the county to Texas. I said, because it’s such a big country that their state health department isn’t the one who does the contact tracing. It’s the individual County, so I’ll contact that county. They would be the ones who would I believe, do the investigation, maybe in conjunction with the Bureau of Prisons? Yeah.
I know, you mentioned that the baby was born premature, but it turns out Okay, so far.
Unknown Speaker 23:38
Yes, the baby’s healthy, twice, like twice tested negative for the virus and is being raised by multiple, you know, grandparents and great grandparents.
Scott Horton 23:51
Yeah. Yeah. All right. Well, that’s a hell of a story, but I sure appreciate your hard work on it. And it’s really important, you know, people As the saying goes, you know, one death is a tragedy and a millions of statistics. So we got 10s of thousands of deaths of COVID here. And so it starts becoming just numbers instead of individual stories. But right something like this is worth really focusing on. I think so. I really appreciate your time on the show.
Arielle Zionts 24:23
Scott Horton 24:24
All right, you guys. That is Arielle Zionts and she is writing for the Rapid City journal there in South Dakota. Grandmother says Eagle Butte woman should have never been transferred to prison while pregnant. The Scott Horton show, Antiwar Radio can be heard on kpfk 90.7 FM in LA, APSradio.com antiwar.com ScottHorton.org and libertarianinstitute.org
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