Sioux Falls, SD
A 31-year-old Sioux Falls conservative activist is accused of sending out several 'robo-calls' attacking South Dakota Republican Party leadership.
Authorities say Daniel Willard did not properly identify the sponsor of at least two of the calls.
The calls attacked Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson, House Majority Leader David Lust and Representative Brian Gosch for their voting record on tuition reimbursement for veterans.
Willard isn't facing charges for the content of the calls, but he is facing charges for not providing the address or website of 'Veterans Against Unethical Politicians,' the group that claimed to be behind the pre-recorded messages.
The four charges he faces are Class 1 misdemeanors and came on the same day that Willard announced he'd be running to be the chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party.
Willard sent out a press release less than 15 minutes after the charges were announced Tuesday, but the press release didn't address the claims against him.
Willard referred any comment on the charges to his attorney but said in the press release that he wants to be the next party chairman to "...help rebuild and re-invigorate our county Republican Parties, and help refocus the South Dakota Republican Party on its traditional conservative ideals."
During this year's election cycle, Willard served as a South Dakota delegate for Representative Ron Paul's presidential campaign.
According to court documents filed Tuesday, investigators caught up with Willard by sending a subpoena to Verizon Wireless, which revealed the calls came from a pre-paid cell phone purchased at Wal-Mart in Sioux Falls the night before the first call went out. The credit card used to purchase the phone along with the email address associated with the registration of the phone led to Willard.
Willard was interviewed with his attorney by the director of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation in November and said that he did not make the recordings. He went on to say that "...there is more than one person involved in the two 'robo-calls.'"
Willard's attorney, R. Shawn Tornow, talked with KELOLAND News over the phone Tuesday and said there are 'significant problems' with what was laid out in court documents and he looks forward to putting on a 'vigorous and complete defense' in the case.