A Summary of the Ongoing Indian Health Services Sexual Assault Scandal
The following is a synopsis of unfurling federal charges against Stanley Patrick Weber, a former doctor and administrator in the federal Indian Health Services (IHS) hospital, and related accusations of sexual abuse and federal cover-ups within the IHS system.
A year ago, Weber was charged with multiple counts of violent child rape in South Dakota, crimes allegedly committed between 1997 and 2011, during his twenty or so years working as a pediatrician and clinical director at the federal IHS hospital on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Earlier this month Weber was charged with another spate of child sexual assault charges stemming from his time as a federal pediatrician on the Blackfeet reservation in Browning, Montana, where he worked before Pine Ridge.
— According to Weber’s colleagues at the Montana IHS, he was forced to leave the hospital and reservation in 1995 due to accusations of inappropriate behavior with young boys. His federal superiors within IHS were informed of these accusations.
— Shortly after being forced out of Montana, Weber was hired within the federal IHS system to the Pine Ridge, South Dakota hospital. It is unclear if Weber was officially transferred, or hired separately for the Pine Ridge job.
— According to IHS sources, federal administrators in Pine Ridge were repeatedly told by Montana staff of the accusations against Weber. He was hired despite the accusations and eyewitness accounts supporting them.
— In his twenty-plus years in Pine Ridge, Weber faced a steady stream of accusations from patients, fellow doctors, and other hospital staffers and community members.
—Weber cultivated ties with his superiors, including former federal hospital CEO Wehnona Stabler, who recently pleaded guilty to accepting a $5,000 gift from Weber and not reporting it on federal disclosure forms.
— Many whistleblowers claim to have been threatened, intimidated, re-assigned, and/or fired by Weber and his administrative allies in the hospital in retaliation for the accusations.
— Weber routinely played host to large numbers of teenage boys at his home on the federal hospital grounds, including late night and sometimes noisy social events. The “Weber Boys,” as hospital workers referred to them, routinely came to the hospital, sometimes inebriated, asking for Weber, and hospital staff were instructed to immediately send them to Weber’s office. Weber told colleagues that he hired the boys to work in his garden and around the house.
— Weber provided bail money and other gifts to family members of his alleged victims. A tribal jailer overheard one inmate — who called Weber to ask for bail money on a prison phone that was being monitored — that her son would “work off the debt.” Weber bailed the boy’s mother out shortly thereafter.
— Tribal investigators spoke with at least one (alleged) victim who claimed sexual abuse by Weber. But tribal authorities were powerless to prosecute any non-Natives (Weber is white), and state jurisdiction doesn’t apply on the reservation. The only recourse is federal law enforcement. Information was passed to federal investigators, and IHS conducted its own investigations, but for at least ten years these investigations went nowhere.
— One staffer filed an official complaint about Weber acting inappropriately with young male patients, bringing in video game systems and staying up late at night to play with them alone in their hospital rooms, even getting into the bed next to them. Such complaints, say IHS sources, were “lost” or covered up by administrators. Indeed, in response to a July, 2016 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, IHS claimed that there were never any complaints or charges of misconduct against Weber, a claim contradicted by nearly a dozen IHS sources.
— In that same FOIA response, IHS claimed a similar lack of complaints against the following people:
*Ronald Dean Keats. An administrator in the IHS’s Great Plains regional headquarters in Aberdeen, South Dakota, who oversaw Dr. Weber and the Pine Ridge hospital, Keats was sentenced to prison in 2012 after he left a CD containing child pornography in the elevator of the federal office building where he worked. Keats was Weber’s administrative liaison officer when Weber was accused of child sexual abuse, suspended, and investigated by IHS (IHS claims that the accusations, suspension, and investigation never occurred). Keats has since been released, and is now a registered sex offender living in Aberdeen.
*Dr. Frankie Delgado Canas. After repeated accusations of sexual harassment and attempted assault in Pine Ridge, Canas was transferred to the IHS hospital on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, a few hours away from Pine Ridge. While working there in 2011, Canas was indicted by the Department of Justice for multiple counts of abusive sexual contact committed against two nurses. He eventually plead the case down to a charge of disorderly conduct, maintained his medical license, and is currently a physician with the VA in Fort Meade, South Dakota, treating military veterans.
*Dr. Muhammad K. Ahsan. In 2005, Ahsan was sued, and eventually settled out of court, for sexual assault against a patient he saw at the Pine Ridge IHS hospital.
—Weber was eventually indicted thanks to the efforts of Pine Ridge tribal prosecutors Elaine Yellow Horse and Tatewin Means, who referred the case to the US Attorney’s office in South Dakota, and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General. The federal investigation and prosecution is part of renewed federal efforts to handle complicated sexual assault cases, which are an epidemic on American Indian reservations.
—Weber is currently awaiting trial in both South Dakota and Montana. He remains free, with restrictions and an ankle monitor, at his home in Spearfish, South Dakota.
For continuing coverage of the Weber case, you can follow me here on Medium, or @joe_flood on Twitter