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Report: T. Denny Sanford still under investigation in child porn case

The Argus Leader reports that an inquiry into child pornography charges against the South Dakota billionaire philanthropist has not been closed, according to a filing in an ongoing fight over open records.

Denny Sanford
Denny Sanford speaks during ceremonies at Sanford Health in downtown Fargo in this undated file photo.
David Samson / The Forum

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The South Dakota billionaire philanthropist T. Denny Sanford remains under investigation for child pornography, according to a Tuesday, Jan. 11, report from the Argus Leader .

However, in a court filing from this week, his attorney argues Sanford's email account had been hacked and any criminal activity — such as accessing illegal content on the internet — should be attributed to the hacker.

The revelations were made in an ongoing legal fight over the fate of state law enforcement affidavits that under girded search warrant requests for Sanford's electronic communications.

On Dec. 9, attorneys for the Argus Leader and ProPublica filed requests for the affidavits with a 2nd Judicial Circuit judge overseeing the case, arguing "no party has shown a compelling justification for continued sealing." By all appearances, say the attorneys, any investigation into Sanford had been "terminated."

In late October, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that parts of a criminal file — including five search warrants — should be made public. But the court upheld a ruling by the Sioux Falls judge allowing that the affidavits remain sealed until an investigation was terminated.


On Monday, Sanford's attorney, Marty Jackley, filed a brief indicating such an investigation was still ongoing. On Tuesday, Jan. 11, Jackley declined to elaborate beyond what he said in a court brief.

"I really have to leave my comments to the briefing that is presently before the court," Jackley wrote in an email to Forum News Service.

A spokesman for the South Dakota Attorney General's office did not respond to a FNS request for confirmation of the reporting.

According to forensic exhibits entered with the court, an individual other than Sanford — named as "Implicated Individual" in the proceedings — had access to the 86-year-old philanthropist's email account without Sanford's knowledge, according to reporting from the Argus Leader.

Any ongoing investigation is believed to be a federal, not a state, matter.

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