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Carolyn Olson

Drawing on decades of experience working in the federal and state criminal justice systems, Carolyn Olson conducts sexual misconduct investigations and hearings with a commitment to thoroughness, fairness, and empathy for all involved.


  • Assistant United States Attorney (Felony, Violent, and Sex Crimes), Western Division of South Dakota 

  • Deputy State’s Attorney (Misdemeanor Supervisor), Pennington County, South Dakota

  • Community Liaison Attorney & Program Sustainability Coordinator, Pennington County, South Dakota


  • Stanford Law School, J.D.

  • Washington University in St. Louis, M.S.W. (American Indian Community Development)

  • Washington University in St. Louis, B.A. (Psychology)

Community Engagement and Pro Bono Commitment

  • I.Am.Legacy (The Institute of I.ndigenous Am.erica’s Legacy), Volunteer Board Member (2019-2022)

  • Wichoyanke Indigenous Network, Volunteer Co-Facilitator (2020-2021)

  • Rainbow Family Equality Project, Volunteer Attorney and Coordinator 

With nearly twenty years of experience in both federal and state criminal justice systems, Carolyn brings a keen eye for detail, fairness, and deliberation when conducting Title IX investigations and hearings for institutions of higher education.

For the first decade of her legal career, Carolyn served as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA), prosecuting violent federal felonies occurring in the Western Division of South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  During this tenure, she collaborated with federal and tribal agents on sex crimes and aggravated domestic violence investigations.  A trained forensic interviewer, Carolyn has overseen hundreds of highly sensitive sexual assault and domestic violence investigative interviews. Carolyn has also served as a consultant and trainer for the Department of Justice on topics including witness interviewing skills, conducting culturally competent investigations, and trial testimony academies for expert and lay witnesses.  In 2008, Carolyn was recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Bureau of Indian Affairs as an Exemplary AUSA Partner for demonstrating outstanding investigative and trial skills related to sexual assault investigations.

Carolyn subsequently moved to a supervisory position, applying her depth of experience to mentor and train others in the criminal justice system.  In 2014, under her leadership, the misdemeanor unit at the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office (South Dakota) expanded two-fold.  Carolyn was responsible for designing and delivering training programs for the new prosecutors, emphasizing the need for fair-mindedness and due process as they learned to assess, investigate, and prosecute cases; the training included a particular focus on handling domestic violence assault cases.

In her most recent position, Carolyn has focused her efforts on achieving fairness and equity for those who intersect with the criminal justice system in Pennington County.  Carolyn spearheaded a Young Adult Diversion program, which provided opportunities for non-violent, first-time offenders to access programming in lieu of prosecution whereby their cases could be dismissed upon successful completion.  Based upon the success of the Diversion program, in 2018 Pennington County selected Carolyn to serve as its Community Liaison Attorney.  In this cutting-edge role focused on racial equity, Carolyn directed county efforts to implement criminal justice reform in connection with Indigenous citizens, who are vastly overrepresented in the county jail populations.  Under Carolyn’s leadership and guidance, Pennington County built lasting partnerships with Indigenous communities and service providers to assist Indigenous people involved in the criminal justice system with accessing culturally-relevant services. 

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