SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Unsealed search warrants reveal that a detective with the state's Division of Criminal Investigation had "probable cause" to retrieve T. Denny Sanford's data as part of a child pornography investigation.
The Minnehaha County Clerk of Courts unsealed the search warrants from 2019 and 2020 for phone and email records of billionaire philanthropist Sanford.
While the 85-year-old Sanford has never been charged with crimes stemming from the investigation, the records — which came just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17 — disclose for the first time that 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge James A. Powers signed off on five warrants, granting a detective permission to seize internet, phone and email records from Verizon, AOL, Microsoft and Midco.
The records sought by DCI special agent Jeff Kollars hone in on two 2019 dates in particular, May 29 and June 27.
In the first subpoena, Kollars filed a request on Dec. 9, 2019, to seize "all messages," including deleted ones, from Sanford's AOL email account with Dulles, Virginia-based Oath Inc., beginning in Jan. 1, 2019, through the subpoena request.
That same day, Kollars also requested Powers sign off on a subpoena for securing records for an online account with Microsoft in Brookings County.
Powers signed both documents, as well as late subpoena requests from Kollars that came in March, seeking data hosted by Sioux Falls-based Midco related to Sanford's IP address, as well as "all available call records" held by Verizon Wireless, on May 29 and June 27.
At the time, court documents reveal that Kollar was involved in "an ongoing investigation involving the possession and distribution of child pornography via the internet," a Class 4 felony in South Dakota punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $20,000.
The records, which had been under a judge-granted gag order requested by the same DCI agent, were ordered released by the South Dakota Supreme in a high-profile transparency opinion issued at the end of October.
The Division of Criminal Investigation is under the auspices of the state Attorney General's Office.
While spanning hundreds of pages, the documents reveal for the first time the extent to which Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg participated in the case, at least by the middle of the summer of 2020, emailing back and forth with Powers.
On July 20, 2020, still over a month before the case would become public, Ravnsborg wrote Powers, "[T]here are multiple states and jurisdictions involved in this matter," including the Department of Justice.
In an email to Forum News Service Wednesday, Sanford's attorney Marty Jackley reiterated that his client has never been charged with a crime. Court records unsealed by the Unified Judicial System earlier in the day confirm what had already been reported, namely that the AG's office had handed off the child pornography case to DOJ.