The man accused of using Gov. Kristi Noem’s cellphone number to prank call the former chairman of the South Dakota GOP will pay a fine and avoid jail time.
That’s the takeaway from the plea deal entered into Tuesday afternoon by Austin Goss, the former Dakota News Now reporter let go last week after being charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor stemming from the January call. Initially charged with making threatening, harassing or misleading contacts and displaying the telephone number of another person, the Stanley County State’s Attorney’s Office agreed to bring a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, a Class 2 misdemeanor. Goss was also granted a suspended imposition of sentence, meaning the charge and conviction will be sealed.
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As part of the plea arrangement and sentence, Goss will issue an apology to Dan Lederman, who was the departing chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party when he received the robocall that appeared to be coming from Noem’s personal cellphone.
Goss will pay $578 in fines and court costs.
Following Tuesday’s hearing, Goss deferred questions to his attorney, Jason Glodt, who said the call was intended to be a practical joke.
“Today Austin pleaded guilty to a Class 2 misdemeanor stemming from a prank call that was intended as a practical joke between Mr. Goss and a friend. I believe it is unfortunate he was charged in the first place, but appreciate the willingness of the state’s attorney to reduce the charge,” Glodt said. “The crime of disorderly conduct is on the same level as a speeding ticket.”
Goss, who’d been Dakota News Now’s primary political reporter since 2020, was fired by the company last week after the prank call and his arrest became public. Neither Lederman nor Noem have publicly commented on the matter.
Other politicians, pundits and political commentators have questioned whether the call, which came through the online website prankdial.com and included a disclaimer it was a spoof, merited the level of response it got from authorities. Both the South Dakota Fusion Center and the attorney general’s Office investigated it before Stanley County ultimately pursued charges.
Lederman and Noem were not present in the courtroom, though Katie Hruska, general counsel in the governor’s office, did attend Tuesday’s hearing.
Prank calls were not focus of state law, former legislator says
Former House Speaker Spencer Gosch, who sponsored legislation in 2022 that led to the law Goss was initially charged with violating, said Tuesday calls like the prank pulled by Goss were not the target of the statute.
“The law that I got passed in 2022 was clearly intended to prevent telemarketers from fraudulently scamming the people in South Dakota, not for seeking revenge on silly, pointless prank phone calls,” he said.
Glodt said Goss is apologetic to not only the recipient of the call, but to taxpayers and authorities who had to deal with it.
“Mr. Goss apologizes to the law enforcement officers who devoted resources to the matter. He also has reached out to the governor and the recipient of the call,” he said. “Austin would also like to thank everyone who has contacted him and offered support. The outpouring of prayers and kind words has shown Austin and his family just how blessed they are.”
Editor’s note: Goss has been a contributor to the The Dakota Scout and a frequent guest on the publication’s weekly podcast.