S.D. high court: Warrants in Sanford probe will be unsealed

Oct 28, 2021, 12:30 PM | Updated: 12:52 pm

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Search warrants will be unsealed in an investigation into billionaire banker-turned philanthropist T. Denny Sanford for possible possession of child pornography, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled.

The unanimous ruling, dated Wednesday and announced Thursday, upheld a lower court ruling that said state law prohibits courts from sealing search warrants and the corresponding lists of what investigators found. The affidavits supporting the search warrants will remain sealed until the investigation is concluded or criminal charges are filed, as allowed under state law.

“Notwithstanding the skilled advocacy on behalf of the parties, the question we confront here is not a close one,” Justice Mark Salter wrote, adding that state law and court rules are clear. “With the exception of the affidavits in support of the five search warrants, our current order sealing the Supreme Court clerk’s appellate file will be dissolved following the expiration of the time for petitioning for rehearing or the resolution of a petition seeking rehearing, provided we do not grant the petition.”

Under state law, Sanford’s attorneys have 20 days to ask the court to reconsider.

The investigation into Sanford was reported last year by ProPublica and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Court documents in the case are sealed and refer only to “an implicated individual” — both news outlets went to court for access.

Sanford has not been charged with a crime. His attorney, former South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, did not mention Sanford by name but released a statement saying: “The ultimate fact remains that the investigating authorities have not filed any criminal charges.”

Jon Arneson, an attorney for the Argus Leader, said the opinion’s conclusion “is a very lucid explanation of why we prevailed.” The state attorney general’s office had no comment on the ruling.

Sanford, 85, is the state’s richest man and is worth an estimated $2.8 billion. He has vowed to “die broke,” and his name adorns dozens of buildings and institutions in South Dakota and beyond.

Even after the investigation was reported last year, Sanford donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the South Dakota government and the state’s largest employer, Sanford Health. Some organizations, universities and governments stopped accepting Sanford’s donations. But in South Dakota, some of the state’s top lawmakers, including Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, have not distanced themselves from him.

ProPublica first reported that South Dakota investigators had obtained a search warrant, citing four unidentified sources. Two people briefed on the matter by law enforcement have previously confirmed the existence of the investigation to The Associated Press. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.

Sanford’s electronic devices came to the attention of investigators from the state attorney general’s office after a technology firm reported that child pornography had either been sent, received or downloaded on his device, according to one of the people who spoke to the AP.

Sanford told the AP in 2016 that he wanted his fortune to have a positive impact on children after his hardscrabble childhood in St. Paul, Minnesota. His mother died of breast cancer when he was 4, and by the time he was 8, Sanford was working in his father’s clothing distribution company.

“You can only have so many cars and all of that kind of stuff so put it into something in which you can change people’s lives,” he said in 2016.


Associated Press reporter Stephen Groves contributed to this story from Sioux Falls, S.D.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - R. Kelly appears during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Sept. 17, ...
Associated Press

R. Kelly sentenced to 30 years in sex trafficking case

Disgraced R&B superstar R. Kelly was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison for using his fame to sexually abuse young fans.
15 hours ago
FILE - The Flint water plant tower is seen, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Flint, Mich. A Michigan Supr...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Years later, Flint water court fight drags on

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan authorities have long promised to hold key officials criminally responsible for lead contamination and health problems arising from a disastrous water switch in Flint in 2014. There’s not much to show more than eight years later. The latest: an extraordinary rebuke Tuesday from the state Supreme Court, which unanimously dismissed indictments […]
15 hours ago
FILE-- Gas is advertised for more than $6 per gallon at a gas station in Sacramento, Calif., Friday...
Associated Press

California lawmakers to vote on $307.9 billion spending plan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers on Wednesday will vote on a plan to spend $308 billion in taxpayer money over the next year as the coffers of the world’s fifth largest economy continue to swell during the pandemic. The centerpiece of the operating budget crafted by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders is […]
15 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks during the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in the Sou...
Associated Press

Most say nation on wrong track, including Dems: AP-NORC poll

WASHINGTON (AP) — An overwhelming and growing majority of Americans say the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction, including nearly 8 in 10 Democrats, according to a new poll that finds deep pessimism about the economy plaguing President Joe Biden. Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults say the country is on the wrong track, and […]
15 hours ago
Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, arrives at the federal courthouse with his wife Sv...
Associated Press

Giuliani’s former Ukraine fixer gets 20 months in prison

NEW YORK (AP) — Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani who was a figure in President Donald Trump’s first impeachment investigation, was sentenced Wednesday to a year and eight months in prison for fraud and campaign finance crimes. Parnas, 50, had sought leniency on the grounds that he’d cooperated with the Congressional probe of […]
15 hours ago
Follow @ktar923...
Sponsored Content by Arizona Department of Health Services

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
S.D. high court: Warrants in Sanford probe will be unsealed