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August 27, 2013 05:37 PM

Willard's Email & Credit Card Connected To Robocalls

Madison, SD

A 32-year-old Republican activist is standing trial amid allegations of violating campaign laws.

Daniel Willard is facing several misdemeanors for failing to identify the name and address of automated robocalls sent out before last November's election.

Willard was charged in December for sending out calls criticizing Republican leaders David Lust, Brian Gosch and Russell Olson for voting to cut education benefits for veterans.

The calls are allegedly illegal because prosecutors say the organization behind the calls, 'Veterans Against Unethical Politicians,' did not register with the state and did not use the appropriate political disclosure in the calls.

Investigators were able to connect Willard to the calls by linking him to the credit card used to purchase the prepaid TracFone that was allegedly used to make the calls and through the email address that was used to register the phone.

"During the course of this trial, it's my intent to take you down both of these trails and explain to you how it is shown that Daniel Willard was one of the parties behind making these phone calls," Assistant South Dakota Attorney General Brent Kempema said during opening statements.

But Willard's attorney, R. Shawn Tornow, told the jury Tuesday that the case is based on 'speculations and assumptions.'

"That's what this case is going to show that the state, come heck or high water, was going to go through this political witch hunt to find their person and they settled on Daniel Willard," Tornow said.

Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson of Wentworth, who received the calls and was targeted in one of the messages, testified that when he called the South Dakota Secretary of State's Office, they had no record of the group.

"Whoever they were, they did a great deal to hide their identity through mysterious phone numbers or an IP address or whatever they use for that technology. It wasn't something any of us could get our arms around who they were," Olson said.

Several representatives of the cell phone, credit card and internet companies involved testified Tuesday that the accounts used to make the calls are linked to Willard.

However, during cross examination Willard's attorney pointed out that there is no way to prove that the phone or credit card wasn’t lost, stolen or used by someone else to make the calls under Willard’s accounts.

The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

  • Politics
  • South Dakota
  • Campaign
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