A local television reporter is accused of using South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem's personal cellphone number to make a prank phone call to the former chair of the state's Republican Party, court documents show.
An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for Austin Goss, the now-former Capitol Bureau reporter for Sioux Falls' Dakota News Now. Goss was charged with "making threatening, harassing, or misleading" telephone calls.
According to court documents, Goss made a call on January 22 using the website PrankDial.com, which made it appear as if the call was coming from Noem's personal cellphone. The call was made to an individual identified in court documents only as "D.L." Dan Lederman, former chair of the South Dakota Republican Party, confirmed to CBS News that he was the prank call's recipient. He declined further comment.
According to an affidavit submitted to the state's circuit court, Lederman heard a recording called "Mafia Guy Got Vaccines." In the recording, a man accosts the listener with questions about the whereabouts of COVID-19 vaccines, then accuses the listener of conspiring to "move the three boxes of that AstraZeneca outside this family," later saying, "Oh, I'm getting so angry."
The recording ends with the line, "You've just been pranked by PrankDial.com."
A state investigator issued a subpoena to PrankDial.com and the internet service provider Midcontinent Communications, finding that Goss's IP address matched the one used to make the call. The investigator also interviewed Lederman, who said that Goss had his phone number and would occasionally text him snide or rude remarks. Lederman said he'd been annoyed by the prank phone call and that the tone of the recording had caused him to worry for his safety, the affidavit said.
According to the affidavit, Goss had met with Noem several times in his capacity as a political reporter. "It would stand to reason that Austin may have come into possession of Governor Noem's personal phone number," the affidavit said.
In January, Noem said her personal cellphone number had been hacked. She blamed it on the release of her Social Security number amid hundreds of documents that the House Jan. 6 committee released last year. "Callous mishandling of personal information has real-world consequences," Noem said in a statement at the time. "If you get such a phone call from my number, know that I had no involvement."
According to his bio page on the Dakota News Now website, which was removed Thursday, Goss "moved to South Dakota in June 2020 in order to continue his career in journalism, heading up the Capitol Bureau in Pierre."
The station announced Goss had been fired Thursday afternoon.
"We learned of the incident involving Austin Goss late last night," Dakota News Now and KOTA Territory News said in a statement. "Once we gathered the facts, we decided to terminate his employment with our stations. Dakota News Now and KOTA Territory were unaware of Mr. Goss' activities and deeply regret the lack of judgment he showed, which violated our policies and is contrary to our commitment to the highest standards of journalistic integrity."
Goss did not respond to a request for comment. If he's found guilty, he faces a sentence of up to one year in a county jail, a $2,000 fine, or both.