SIOUX FALLS, SD – South Dakota’s attorney general’s office has declined to pursue charges against billionaire T. Denny Sanford after an investigation into possible possession of child pornography, saying it has no “criminal offenses” within the state’s jurisdiction, according to a court document filed Friday established.
Sanford, a banker-turned-philanthropist, is the richest man in the state and has donated billions to hospitals, universities and charities. South Dakota Investigators began searching in 2019 his email account and his mobile and internet service providers for possible possession of child pornography after his accounts were flagged by a tech company.
The attorney general’s office said in Friday’s court filing that the “South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation has completed its investigation … and has determined that there are no criminal offenses within the jurisdiction of the State of South Dakota.”
The attorney general’s office had no comment beyond the court filings.
“Mr. Sanford appreciates the public confirmation from the Office of the Attorney General of SD that the DCI has completed its investigation and found no criminal offense,” Marty Jackley, Sanford’s attorney, said via text message.
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg previously requested federal law enforcement involvement. A state filing in January said both state and federal investigations were continuing at the time. The Justice Department declined to comment Friday when asked if a federal investigation was ongoing.
A person briefed on the matter by law enforcement told The Associated Press last year that state investigators became aware of Sanford’s electronic devices after a tech company reported that child pornography was either being sent, received or written to its device had been downloaded. The person was not allowed to speak about the case at the time and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The investigation was first reported in 2020 by Pro Publica and the Sioux Falls Argus leader. Both news outlets went to court to gain access to search warrant affidavits. As part of disputes in state courts About the release of the documents, Jackley said the investigation found his client’s email accounts had been hacked.
The affidavits of the search warrant were not publicly available as of Friday evening. Judge James Power told the Argus guide he expected to release her on Tuesday, but the newspaper also reported that Sanford attorney Stacy Hegge had sought to delay the unsealing.
86-year-old Sanford is worth an estimated $3.4 billion. He made his fortune founding South Dakota’s First Premier Bank, which is known for issuing high-yield credit cards to people with bad credit.
Sanford told the Associated Press in 2016 that he wanted his fortune to be a positive influence on children after a difficult 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. He lived with two siblings in a small apartment.
“You can only have so many cars and all those things, so put it into something that you can change people’s lives in,” Sanford said in 2016.
After the investigation into Sanford became public, his financial generosity hardly diminished. In January, he donated $50 million to a cybersecurity lab at Dakota State University, while the hospital system that bears his name, Sanford Health, received over $650 million in donations from him last year.
Forliti reported from Minneapolis.
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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/05/27/no-state-charge-for-billionaire-sanford-in-child-porn-probe/ No state charges for billionaire Sanford in child pornography investigation