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Sanford search affidavits released

T. Denny Sanford
T. Denny Sanford

Eighty-three pages of search warrant affidavits relating to T. Denny Sanford and an investigation into child pornography have been released to the public.

This comes after a years-long legal battle between Sanford, the Argus Leader, and ProPublica – an investigative journalism nonprofit.

Earlier this month, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled the affidavits from 2019 and 2020 were to be unsealed under the state’s public record laws. The documents depict the evidence that led to the initial choice to pursue search warrants.

A tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2019 led to the first search warrant, according to the affidavit. That tip led to an AOL account believed connected to Sanford containing images of child pornography and erotica, some depicting girls under the age of 15.

Another search warrant issued to MidCo highlight a collection of emails from the account, including some that included images depicting child pornography.

The affidavit named items deemed “identifiers” by law enforcement, such as a picture of Sanford’s driver’s license, a letter from the Dalai Lama addressed to Sanford, and a hotel receipt with the guest name “Denny Sanford” listed.

Sanford is no longer under investigation, and he was not indicted.

A statement from Sanford’s attorney Stacey Hegge said the investigation found no prosecutable offense.

"Mr. Sanford appreciates that after a thorough investigation the authorities concluded there exists no prosecutable offense," The statement reads. "Here, because there is no prosecutable case or further action to be taken, the court records being released contain only allegations. These preliminary allegations were provided to law enforcement prior to law enforcement’s exhaustive investigation and its realization that various individuals had documented access to the electronic devices at issue, including signs of hacking. While some claim releasing affidavits that reiterate these allegations constitute transparency, releasing preliminary allegations made prior to completing the full investigation only misinforms people and obscures the investigation’s conclusions that no prosecutable offense occurred."

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture
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