The charges against Big Horn Radio Network news director David D. Koch follow a January radio show in which an anonymous caller confronted Koch about his criminal history and voting.
Court records show Koch was convicted of felony counts of burglary and theft stemming from an April 14, 1993, incident in Alaska and a subsequent violation of probation conditions.
Koch, now 38, is alleged to have registered to vote in Park County in 2009 — constituting one felony count — then voting in the primary and general elections in 2010 and the general election in 2012. Voting in those three elections make up the basis for the other charges being brought by the Park County Attorney’s Office.
The investigation began when Koch acknowledged being a felon and having voted during the Jan. 28 and Jan. 30 editions of KODI’s live call-in show, “Speak Your Piece.” The acknowledgments were prompted by a caller who apparently obtained Koch’s criminal record from Alaskan officials and then confronted Koch on air.
Ken Gassen, an investigator for the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office, says in a charging affidavit that an individual contacted his office with the allegation that Koch had illegally voted about a week after the programs aired. The individual, not named in Gassen’s account, reportedly provided supporting documentation and links to archived copies of the radio programs.
In addition to listening to the “Speak Your Piece” episodes, Gassen says he independently confirmed Koch’s felony convictions and his registration to vote.
An individual must swear that “I have not been convicted of a felony, or if I have been convicted of a felony, I have had my civil or voting rights restored” when registering, Gassen said, and Koch is alleged to have falsely sworn that oath. Gassen also says Koch illegally voted in 2010 and 2012.
The charges were filed last week. Koch turned himself in to the Park County Sheriff’s Office on Friday morning and — dressed in a standard-issue orange jumpsuit and shackles — made his initial Circuit Court appearance that afternoon.
Accepting an agreement between Deputy Park County Attorney Billy Struemke and Cody attorney Bill Simpson, who was representing Koch at the hearing, Circuit Court Magistrate Matt Winslow set Koch’s bond at $7,500.
“This matter really is a white collar crime,” Struemke explained. “While we do take voting rights seriously, I don’t see danger to the community or risk to the community at this present time.”
On the other hand, Struemke noted that Koch has active warrants in Alaska. The warrants are non-extraditable, meaning Alaska officials do not consider the allegations a high-enough priority to want to bring Koch back to the state.
The circumstances surrounding the warrants were not immediately clear, though a publicly accessible offender database showed Koch as having absconded from a community supervision program. A spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Corrections said probation and parole personnel were in training on Monday and unavailable to answer questions.
Koch posted a $7,500 surety bond Friday afternoon and was released. He was off the air on Monday, and has been “suspended from his duties,” according to Roger J. Gelder, the executive vice president and chief operations officer of Legend Communications of Wyoming, which operates the station.
Koch turned himself in to law enforcement about 45 minutes after hosting Friday’s “Speak Your Piece.” On the show were Park County Republican Party leaders and during the sometimes heated discussion, Koch clashed with some local Tea Party members who called in.
Koch frequently covers and discusses politics, and it appears his views may have prompted the scrutiny that led to the investigation and the criminal charges.
During Jan. 28’s “Speak Your Piece,” a caller began by saying Koch had said “a lot of things that kind of struck me as a little bit strange” over the months. He then asked if Koch had voted in the last election.
“I registered to vote, Republican, and yes, I voted,” Koch said.
The caller, who refused to identify himself, then brought up Koch’s criminal record.
“I find it odd that a convicted felon could register to vote in this county without getting his record expunged, and I don’t see that that record’s been expunged anywhere. Would you like to comment, David?” the caller asked.
“Yeah, I’m not sure that you know what you’re talking about, sir,” Koch said. In another live broadcast two days later, Koch acknowledged having a criminal past.
The Jan. 28 caller had suggested Koch should never have been hired by the radio station, but co-host Tom Morrison and a couple listeners defended Koch; one likened the caller to a cowardly gunfighter shooting an opponent in the back.
“As my grandpa said, ‘It is not how many times you have fallen, it’s how many times you get up,’ ” Koch said later in the Jan. 28 program. “And if somebody wants to persecute me, because I have lived this American life and I have made mistakes, that I have worked my butt off to overcome, then take your shot, because here I am.
“I will continue to get up, I will continue to provide for my family and I will continue to give the best that I have to this community that I love and contribute to get that phone to ring by bringing up controversial topics,” Koch said.
A preliminary hearing, where a judge will determine whether there’s enough evidence for the case against Koch to proceed, will be scheduled for some date in the future.
Editor's note: This version clarifies that Park County Republican Party leaders were the guests on the June 21 show and that Koch clashed with Tea Party members who called in.