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The Schlekeway Precedent: Why Bosworth Loses Her Best Defense…

Last updated on 2015.06.04

...and becomes a state legislator?

Aberdeen attorney Brandon Taliaferro did a good job of keeping his compulsively vocal new client Annette Bosworth quiet at her arraignment last Monday. Now if Taliaferro could just get that memo to the spokesman to whom Bosworth has paid at least $5,000, a spokesman who spent an inordinate amount of time in the comment section here trying to get folks to talk about anything other than the fact that Bosworth is guilty of swearing a false oath on her nominating petition and committing felony perjury, a fact that no one, Bosworth herself included, has denied.

Amidst the dense smokescreen belched by the Bosworth media machine, Taliaferro may find one wisp of an argument that may have even the faintest relevance in the courtroom. Team Bosworth has asked for some legal precedent for a person being "charged for signature violations where they got legitimate signatures, i.e. real people who signed?"

Such a request is based on a false reading of what Bosworth did: she did not get legitimate signatures; someone else did, and she subsequently swore a false oath that she got those signatures. You won't find a precedent for the state charging a petition circulator who properly witnessed and verified signatures, because that's not a crime.

But even if we accept that the absence of precedent somehow calls into question the validity of the charges against Bosworth, an eager reader fills the gap with the Schlekeway precedent.

Todd Schlekeway -- Tim Calhoun
Todd Schlekeway and Tim Calhoun agree: Annette Bosworth is toast.

In 2004, Todd Schelekway was an eager young organizer working for the South Dakota Republican Party. He got a notary seal and helped process absentee voter applications on campus as part of an SDGOP push to get student votes. Unfortunately, Schlekeway notarized some absentee voter applications that he did not personally witness. That's a misdemeanor. Attorney General Larry Long and Secretary of State Chris Nelson quickly investigated and brought charges against Schlekeway and five other GOP workers. Schlekeway pled guilty, paid $245, got a 30-day suspended sentence, and gave up his notary seal.

Notice: the voters requesting the absentee ballots were real voters. Their signatures were real. Schlekeway just didn't witness those signatures. Schlekeway 2004 sounds a lot like Bosworth 2014, right?

When the charges were filed in October 2004, barely two weeks before the election, Minnehaha County state's attorney Dave Nelson offered this observation about charges that some electoral observers could have rightly called unusual:

Dave Nelson said the six are charged with improper use of a notary commission, a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to a month in jail and a $200 fine. They can also lose their notary licenses.

"Notary violations are very, very common" in government and business, he said.

But unlike most cases that aren't prosecuted, the six were charged because they made it possible for someone's vote not to count, Dave Nelson said.

"The potential consequences of these acts are significant and far-reaching," he said [Carson Walker, "Six Charged in Ballot Probe,"AP via Rapid City Journal, 2004.10.24].

Yet our state officials were not trying to disenfranchise any voters. Remember: Larry Long and Chris Nelson were Republicans. The absentee ballots in the solicitation of which Schlekeway and friends were misdemeanoring were meant to boost Republicans. Screwing up the notarization opened the door for Democrats to challenge those ballots. Long and Nelson did not want the courts to throw out the ballots that Schlekeway's sloppiness spoiled:

Long said he hopes that if any ballots are challenged in court, the judge sides with the voter's right to be counted and agrees that the solution was a valid way to fix problems caused by wayward notaries [Walker, 2004.10.24].

In the Schlekeway case, Long recognized that the state could simultaneously and consistently seek a liberal interpretation of the law to protect the will of innocent voters and strictly enforce notary law to punish wayward notaries who put innocent voters' will at risk. Again, Schlekeway 2004 sounds a lot like Bosworth 2014. Long's successor, AG Marty Jackley, went out of his way to protect voters' (or in this case, nominators') intent from a wayward petition circulator. But in consistency with that desire to protect those innocent citizens, he is prosecuting a petition circulator who could well have thwarted their intent with her flagrant disregard for the requirements of the circulator's oath.

Now Annette, before, you poo-poo the precedent, look at where Schlekeway's election crime got him. The George W. Bush campaign was nice enough to give Schlekeway and others involved in the voting fraud campaign jobs right away in Ohio (where Bush won! well done, Todd!). Four years later, the South Dakota GOP invited Schlekeway back to become the first and so far only Todd to serve in the South Dakota Legislature, for one term in the House and one term in the Senate.

So follow the Schlekeway precedent to its logical conclusion, and a quick, contrite guilty plea could land Annette a job campaigning for some Republican favorite in a big Senate campaign. Perhaps the party would send you to join your husband Chad in Alaska, where you could help one of the establishment Republicans beat back Joe Miller's repeat Tea Party challenge. Then, having served the party well, they'd bring you back to South Dakota in 2018, when your District 13 Senator, Phyllis Heineman, will be term-limited out. What better precedent could you ask for?

Of course, the vital difference between Schlekeway 2004 and Bosworth 2014 is that Schlekeway committed a misdemeanor in the service of the party favorite John Thune, while Bosworth committed a felony to get on the ballot and compete with party favorite Marion Michael Rounds (and you were competing with Rounds, right, Annette?).

The Schlekeway precedent sinks the only remotely legal argument Team Bosworth has offered in defense of her perjury charges. If Bosworth were smart, she'd find a way to turn that precedent to humbler success in a future election... but I think she's shot holes in the bottom of that boat as well.


  1. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.07

    Lee and Bosworth wanted a precedent, they got one. Careful what you wish for, you just may get it.

    Now that the precedent thing has apparently been resolved, what is their next move?

  2. Tara Volesky 2014.07.08

    Annette Bosworth poked the bear "Marty Jackley" and the Bear is mad. I admire Brandon Taliafarro for defending Bosworth because he knows how corrupt our government is. I am sadden, Brandon didn't run for Attorney General. He spent almost a quarter of a million dollars going up against the machine and won. Now the machine is doing everything to run him out of SD. We can't keep losing our young people because of a Bully form of Government. Brandon, please don't leave SD. He is honest and ethical, that's why he would have a hard time getting elected in SD. Same goes for Mike Myers.

  3. Craig 2014.07.08

    After I brought it up, I didn't notice that Stranahan fellow addressing it, but it is possible I missed it between his bragging about all of his accomplishments while trying to steer traffic to his blog as he contemplates how his amazing career as a journalist has landed him in Sioux Falls where he has no better opportunity than to act as a (rather ineffective) spokesperson for a woman who has zero chance of a political future and one who appears to have no legitimate defense to the muliple felony charges against her.

    By the way... "The Schlekeway Precedent" sounds like a great name for a HBO miniseries.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.08

    Brandon Taliaferro would make a good AG candidate. Running for that office would have been a great opportunity for him to lead South Dakota in a conversation about real corruption in state government and to demand some answers from AG Jackley. As an honest and ethical attorney, Taliaferro will not drag that discussion into the courtroom as he provides Bosworth her constitutionally mandated defense, since the discussion of all those very real ills is irrelevant to the discussion of her very real crimes.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.08

    Craig, thank you for bringing the Schlekeway precedent to my attention. I'll make HBO puts your name in the credits. :-)

  6. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.08

    Actually, the Schlekeway precedent suggests that penalties for Bosworth should be negligible.

    South Dakota should require something like 20 signatures and $200 to run for office.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.08

    I reserve the right to offer conditional responses. As I make clear in the text above, my primary objection is that precedent is irrelevant to a straight reading of the law, the oath, and the facts, all of which remain unrefuted. Nonetheless, in case any readers or judges think precedent does matter, I make clear that Schlekeway kills that argument as well.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.08

    The real irrelevancies here are the personal attacks that Bosworth's paid spokesman includes in nearly every response. Neither his résumé nor mine matter to the facts of Bosworth's case. Neither do the instances of real corruption that Stranahan now seeks to exploit for his personal aggrandizement, which is the real central theme of his œuvre.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.08

    On June 18, 2014 several weeks after Bosworth was arrested, she announced on her Facebook page that the Attorney General Jackley informed her that she would be facing additional charges.

    What are those charges she is anticipating? The raffle scam? Not paying employees?

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.08

    Roger, I've heard of no additional charges, although you've identified grounds for several. For now, I chalk that up to more error and misinformation from Bosworth.

  11. Craig 2014.07.08

    "I'm sorry it makes you feel badly that I do actually have a journalism resume and I've covered and broken major national and international stories. That's not bragging, it's an accurate description of what I've done."

    We will have to agree to disagree on that one Mr. Stranahan. I have no doubt you were employed or contracted by various (primarily far-right politically focused) media organizations, but I do think you embellish your resume just a tad by suggestion you "broke" major news stories such as the Trayvon Martin shooting or the John Edwards affair as you claimed. You may have relayed the news via a blog or a website as you picked it up via a wire service, but I sincerely doubt you were the journalist who did the research and actually broke the story. In fact I'd put money on the fact you weren't... primarily because prior to your visit to this blog I've never heard of you.

    I once knew a man who claimed to be a host of his own daily radio program which aired in every major city in the US. Turns out it was an Internet radio station he started from his basement. He wasn't lying nor was he wrong when he made his claims, but sometimes it is all about context.

    By the way Mr. Stranahan - I'm not a jealous person, and I surely am not jealous of someone who trolls blogs, distorts and stretches facts, or calls others names while pretending to serve God. If I thought for a second you were really in Sioux Falls because this is where the news brought you or because you are on the edge of uncovering some type of massive cesspool of corruption I'd commend you for overlooking our less than ideal climate in search of the truth, but I think we both know you're just chasing a buck as your career seems to circle the brim of a bucket full of obscurity.

    Better men than you have called themselves journalists - but the label doesn't define a man nearly as well as his own actions and words.

  12. Jim 2014.07.08

    Roger, I don't think she said Marty informed her...I think she said she had been informed. She just didnt understand she was being indicted on the same, not new charges. Just one more in a long string of errors on her part.

  13. Jessie 2014.07.08

    Your running string of factual errors leaves with you with no creds as a journalist. "9 more year than Marty Jackley gave child rapist Richard Mette" Since when did the AG become the sentencing judge in that case? Factual error. The Trayvon Martin story was broken by reporters of the Orlando Sentinel, followed by Kevin Cunningham and Trymaine Lee on the internet. Factual error.

    When you first asked about precedents, I advised you to ask a lawyer, not the commenters on this blog. Have you done so? If not, why wouldn't you if you actually wanted an answer?

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