David Montgomery is providing the best live online coverage of the Dan Willard robocall trial, tweeting prolifically and usefully from the Lake County Courthouse.
Amidst yesterday's flurry of keystrokes, in one retweet of colleague John Hult and four tweets of his own, Montgomery captures what the Willard prosecution is really about:
- Hult: "DCI Director Bryan Gortmaker is on the stand now. The state's top cop investigated the Willard matter."
- Montgomery: "Gortmaker testified that he was asked to investigate the robocalls personally by Attorney General Marty Jackley."
- Montgomery: "When Jackley asked DCI to investigate robocalls, Gortmaker told him, 'I wanted to take this personally.'"
- Montgomery: Tornow asks if Gortmaker's investigation proves someone bought the TracFone. Gortmaker: 'By circumstance, yes.'"
- Montgomery, quoting witness Gary Dykstra: "The fact that we're here today is proof in and of itself that some people don't like what we have to say."
The state's top cop tackled this crime, a misdemeanor violation of a statute that the Legislature took off the books this winter. South Dakota's Attorney General asked that top cop to take it. In a state with sex trafficking, child abuse, phone scams, fraud, and use of non-profit donations for political purposes, the chief of the Department of Criminal Investigations turns his attention to the crime of failing to put one's name to debatable claims about the voting records of powerful Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson whined that he felt terrorized, but no one was really harmed any more than they are in a daily round of blog criticism.
For all of that top cop's efforts, all we get is circumstantial evidence. Yet the prosecution pushes on, determined to drag through a costly trial those who would challenge the Republican leadership, happy to gamble on the 50-50 bank shot that a slightly stacked Lake County jury will put in jail for a year a fellow Republican who anonymously said things Republican leaders don't like.
Given all the things I've said on this blog that Republican leaders don't like, it's surprising they haven't committed similar resources to do the same thing to me. Funny: by putting my name to everything I write, I may have spared myself a Willard-style prosecution.
Whichever way the verdict goes, the Willard trial shows the reality of South Dakota politics: say things the leaders don't like, and they will order top officials to find a way to make you pay.