Robo-Call Trial Underway In Madison
by Jeff Rusack, Reporter
August 27, 2013 7:50 PM
Ever get annoyed with political automated calls months before the election? Well, one South Dakotan is standing trial because of those calls, better known as ‘robo-calls.’ Turns out there are laws that say you must identify who is paying for those calls. Now, prosecutors and some local law makers are taking action.
September 2012, State Senator Russell Olson checks his messages, a call from a Virginia area code leaves a message he was not expecting.
“Along with believing that he can rewrite the constitution and deny your 1st Amendment rights to free speech, Senator Russell Olson also believes that South Dakota National Guard students should not deserve to go college,” said a muffled voice from the record message.
It went on.
“And why he thinks that you are a terrorist.”
“I mean when people attack you, you want to know who they are. I mean if I run ads against my opponent, I have to a have a disclaimer that says this is paid for by Russell Olsen and I stand behind what I say. This group, I never heard of, so it raised a level of curiosity that I had never heard of the group,” state Olson on the witness stand.
Election laws say robo-calls must declare who financed the messages 60 days before an election.
Prosecutors say they've tracked the calls that also attacked Representatives Brian Gosch and David Lust. They say the money and phone records point to republican supporter Daniel Willard from Sioux Falls, who faces misdemeanor charges.
Daniel Willard's attorney is former republican State Representative R. Shawn Tornow.
“The state, come heck or high water, is going to go through this political witch hunt to find their person and they settled on Dan Willard and even though it was based on assumption, on assumption, on assumption, that you are going to hear. They're bringing it to you to say, find him guilty,” said Tornow.
The defense goes on to say, the robo-calls did provide identification.
“This call is paid for and authorized by Veterans Against Unethical Politicians,” ended the messages.
The prosecution claim that’s not a company registered with the South Dakota Secretary of State's office. And say, Willard helped fabricate the company to send out the robo-calls.
Election season is over but, the fight over robo-calls has just begun.