South Dakota authorities on Wednesday arrested defeated U.S. Senate candidate Annette Bosworth and charged her with multiple counts of perjury and filing false election documents, saying she fraudulently attested to gathering voter signatures when she was really on a Christian mission trip to the Philippines.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley charged Bosworth with six counts of perjury and six counts of filing false documents related to election campaign laws. The arrest warrant was served a day after Bosworth lost the Republican primary with just 6 percent of the vote.
"The election complaints received by the Secretary of State involve conduct that is serious, deliberate, and must be addressed in order to preserve the integrity of our elections," Jackley said in a statement. "Because this is a federal elected office, I have and will continue to discuss the investigation with federal authorities."
Jackley said the 42-year-old Bosworth was given notice of the warrant Wednesday morning and turned herself in to the Minnehaha County Jail. She was immediately released.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Bosworth called the charges "a political intimidation scheme" against her by Jackley, who was initially appointed to his position by former Gov. Mike Rounds in 2009. Rounds defeated Bosworth and three other Republicans Tuesday night to capture the GOP nomination for the seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Tim Johnson.
"We still believe this is a political persecution," Bosworth said in a prepared statement. She did not take questions.
Jackley said the charges are not politically motivated.
"The Attorney General does not have the luxury of talking a walk or a pass on tough issues," said Jackley, who was re-elected to his post in 2010. "Ms. Bosworth's conduct and statements regarding her petitions speak for themselves."
Jackley in May announced that he would investigate several nominating petitions submitted by U.S. Senate candidates, including that of Bosworth, after a liberal blogger and a conservative state lawmaker raised concerns about the legitimacy of some petitions.
A complaint was also filed against Clayton Walker, an independent who did not make the November ballot, accusing him of perjury and filing false documents. A telephone message left at Walker's home Wednesday was not immediately returned.
State Division of Criminal Investigation agent Bryan Gortmaker said in an arrest affidavit that Bosworth attested to personally gathering signatures in January when she was in fact serving on a publicized medical mission trip in the Philippines. She also attested to gathering signatures on some Hutterite colonies, but residents interviewed said the documents were not signed in front of Bosworth, Gortmaker said.
"The Colony had been contacted by phone by Dr. Bosworth and one nominating petition came to them by mail, asking that the petition be signed and she would take care of the rest," Gortmaker wrote, referring to a petition sent to the Millerdale Colony in Miller. Hutterites, similar to Amish and Mennonites, live a life centered on their religion on German-speaking colonies scattered across northern U.S. states and Canada.
Bosworth said she had hundreds more signatures than were needed to get on the primary ballot, and the validity of those signatures is not in question.
"Simply put, there was no criminal intent to deceive, nor was there any reason to," she said.
Bosworth founded the mission-based health care nonprofit Preventive Health Strategies in 2011 and opened a private practice medical clinic in Sioux Falls called Meaningful Medicine.
The political newcomer raised $1.7 million dollars during her campaign but spent most of what she raised on out-of-state fundraising efforts, according to her Federal Election Commission reports. The campaign has been using Base Connect, a direct mail fundraising company that helps conservative candidates, organizations and political action committees.
Her campaign fund was in the red as of her last filing on May 14, reporting $99,000 in cash offset by debts of more than $150,000.
Bosworth has also faced accusations from several former employees, who said she has failed to pay promised wages.
One week before the primary, Bosworth staged an "adults only" press conference to highlight the hateful and hurtful phrases hurled at her by random Internet commenters during the campaign. Bosworth gave volunteers spray paint cans and had them produce a graffiti-laden backdrop of profane words and insults to make her point.
A day later she announced that she was sponsoring a last-minute Senate candidate forum to be posted on YouTube. The forum, which was also attended by two other candidates, was not open to the public.
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