Jury trial scheduled for robocall suspect
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
A Sioux Falls man charged with violating South Dakota election communication laws during the 2012 general election continued his not guilty plea this morning (Thursday) in a Madison courtroom.|
Daniel Willard did not appear before Judge Lee Ann Pierce in Third Circuit Court during the morning session that included his preliminary hearing/arraignment. His defense attorney, R. Shawn Tornow, was present in the courtroom to represent Willard.
After hearing that Willard would continue his not guilty plea, Pierce scheduled a jury trial on April 17 in Madison with Judge Tim D. Tucker presiding. Pierce also set a March 15 deadline for the attorneys to submit pretrial motions and a March 25 date for a motions hearing.
Willard was charged during December in Lake County with four Class 1 misdemeanors that charged him with "failing to identify the name and address of the maker of a communication within 60 days of an election."
Willard was released after his arrest on a personal recognizance bond.
Brent Kempema of the S.D. Attorney General's Office was present in the courtroom conducting the prosecution of Willard's case.
The prosecution alleges that Willard violated a law requiring political communications to disclose the person or organization paying for them. Willard is also accused of violating another law requiring political communications to contain an address or website address for the person or organization paying for them.
The Attorney General's Office accuses Willard of sending out robocalls, or automated phone calls, attacking Republican legislative leaders in South Dakota without providing the proper disclaimers.
The prosecution's case centers on robocalls that were directed at the 2012 election campaigns of state Sen. Russell Olson of Madison and state Reps. David Lust and Brian Gosch, both of Rapid City. The calls were sent on Sept. 12 and Sept. 17, and the first robocall was directed at Lust and Gosch, Republicans who hold leadership positions in the state House of Representatives. The second robocall targeted Olson, who serves as the senate majority leader.
The charges against Willard originated from Olson when he received several of the robocalls on his cell phone. Many other persons also reported receiving the messages.
After learning about the robocalls, Gov. Dennis Daugaard denounced the messages and the person(s) responsible for them. Daugaard and Secretary of State Jason Gant asked the state Attorney General's Office last September to investigate the automated phone calls.
Willard announced his candidacy on Dec. 11, 2012 to run for the chairman's post with the South Dakota Republican Party. A statement and biography released with the announcement stated that he was a Minnehaha County Republican Party Precinct committeeman and the chairman of the South Dakota Federation of Young Republicans.
Willard also served as a delegate to his party's state convention last summer, supporting the presidential candidacy of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
He has worked for the last five years in the financial service industry and is a six-year military veteran, having served overseas with the U.S. Army,
Each of the Class 1 misdemeanor charges possesses a sentence of up to one year in jail and/or up to a $2,000 fine.