Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon to charges of violating election laws 12 times in order to get her name on the Republican primary ballot.
Bosworth appeared in court for the first time on a formal indictment charging her with six counts of offering a false or forged instrument for filing related to six nominating petitions filed with Secretary of State Jason Gant and six counts of perjury for swearing under oath that she had personally collected the signatures on the same petitions.
Sixth Circuit Judge John Brown informed Bosworth of her rights before receiving the plea and told her what she could face if convicted on all 12 counts, each of which is a class six felony.
“You could face up to 24 years in the state penitentiary,” Brown said.
Bosworth, who had been smiling before entering the courtroom, was subdued during the short proceeding and asked no questions.
Her lawyer, Brandon Taliaferro, who had only recently joined Bosworth’s defense said he was unsure if he would need to file any motions and needed time to sift through the evidence against Bosworth.
“Your honor at this point I just came on board, I just filed for discovery,” Taliaferro said.
Deputy Attorney General Robert Mayer said he would provide Taliaferro with the evidence as quickly as he could.
Brown set Bosworth’s next court date, a status hearing, for July 15 at 11 a.m.
The charges filed against Bosworth June 3, stem from an investigation launched by South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley after a liberal blogger and a Republican State Representative challenged several of Bosworth’s nominating petitions. Jackley said the investigation was unrelated to the challenges and was started only after Secretary of State Jason Gant asked for it.
An affidavit from Division of Criminal Investigation Director Bryan Gortmaker filed in support of the original complaint, said Bosworth had been out of the country when four of the nominating petitions had been signed. She couldn’t have collected the signatures even though she signed the petitions under oath as having done so, Gortmaker said in the affidavit.
Gortmaker said the other two petitions had been signed by members of Hutterite colonies. He said several of the signatures had different dates but were from the same address and when DCI agents asked the colony members if they had ever met Bosworth, they said no.
Bosworth, meanwhile, has hotly contested the charges, saying she has been persecuted by Jackley for years and the charges against her are politically motivated.
“This maneuver by Marty Jackley’s office didn’t come as a surprise to me,” Bosworth said during a June 4 news conference. “We still believe this to be a political persecution.”
Neither Bosworth nor Taliaferro were willing to comment after Monday’s hearing.
Independent candidate Clayton Walker is facing similar charges and has been pulled from the November general election ballot. He is due in court early this month.