Closing Arguments Of Robocall Trial
by Jeff Rusack, Reporter
August 29, 2013 9:56 PM
After three days of testimony, the trial against a South Dakota man accused of making illegal robocalls has come to a conclusion.
“We the jury, find the defendant, guilty.”
Four times over, the jury found Daniel Willard guilty of failing to provide a disclaimer stating who paid for a pair of robocalls, made within 60 days of the 2012 election. And for each offense, Willard must pay $250.
“I imagine the case may come down to three words: clearly and forthrightly,” said Assistant Attorney General Brent Kempema.
The end of the robocalls claimed they were paid for and authorized by Veterans Against Unethical Politicians, a group that does not exist and was not registered with the Secretary of State's office.
"The Secretary of State doesn't have the authority to go and tell them they have to file. My job is to accept what is filed with my office. If someone does something we question, we then go to the attorney general’s office," said Secretary of State Jason Gant.
That and complaints by local lawmakers got the investigation rolling.
Willard help set up the robocalls that attacked State Senator Russell Olson and others for not supporting veterans.
However, Willard was the only person charged with violating election laws. But, certain testimony pointed to U.S. Senate Candidate Stace Nelson as an accomplice in the scheme.
“Didn't you hear plenty of testimony? I know you did. About Stace Nelson? Why haven't you heard from him?” asked Willard’s attorney, R Shawn Tornow.
The actual crimes are only misdemeanors. But, Willard's attorney felt the charges against his client were a part of what he called a "political witch hunt."
"Russ Olson was upset, other leadership were upset, including the governor, and that's why the Attorney General put his DCI director on the case,” said Tornow.
The prosecution disagreed, saying they just followed the clues to Daniel Willard.
“Some guys got together and decided to make some attack ads, some attack robocalls. And after making up these robocalls they want to put something at the end of it. So, that is what they come up with to skirt the law,” said Kempema.
One piece of evidence that sealed Willard's fate, he used his credit card to purchase a TracPhone and that's how investigators traced the calls to him.
Willard's fines are small. But, one person who tried to go around election laws will face some punishment.
The reason this trial was held at the Lake County Courthouse was because that’s where State Senator Russell Olson received one of the phone calls that attacked him.