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Woman who challenged ballot says she can't pay court-ordered $35k

PIERRE — The woman who tried to get a state legislator removed from the election ballot in 2012 said Monday she refuses to pay the $35,881.60 she now owes for the legislator’s attorney fees and court costs.

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“I don’t have any money. I don’t have any property. I have nothing,” Stephanie Strong of rural Sturgis said in an interview. “They know there was a crime and they went along with it.”

Strong challenged the validity of the candidacy petition for Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City. She sued Secretary of State Jason Gant and eventually lost. Gosch was allowed to intervene in the case because his opportunity to be re-elected was at stake.

Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl ruled one year ago that Strong’s lawsuit was malicious and frivolous and that Strong owed attorney fees and costs to Gosch. Gosch is now speaker of the House of Representatives and its top presiding officer. His lawyer, Sara Frankenstein of Rapid City, is secretary for the South Dakota Republican Party’s central committee.

Frankenstein said she will discuss with Gosch whether to have the court’s order converted into a judgment against Strong.

That would allow for a lien to be placed against Strong’s property. Proceeds from a sale would be applied to satisfy the lien.

Frankenstein said such cases can’t be laughed off.

“You have to respond. You have to appear. You have to launch a defense,” Frankenstein said. “We were before the Supreme Court three times.”

Strong wasn’t required to pay for the time spent by court employees and the state attorney general offi ce.

“That’s all taxpayers’ time that’s expended on things like this,” Frankenstein said.