GOP Political Strategist Pleads Not Guilty to Stalking Charges

Daniel Edward Duffey entered the plea in Flathead County District Court on Feb. 22; Judge Dan Wilson denied the defendant’s bond reduction request

By Maggie Dresser
Daniel Edward Duffey appears in Flathead County District Court in Kalispell on Feb. 22, 2024. Duffey, a Republican Party political operative, is charged with two counts of stalking. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

A 39-year-old Billings man who served as the former political director for Gov. Greg Gianforte’s 2020 campaign and continued to work in state politics pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of stalking – a felony and a separate misdemeanor – for allegedly harassing a Whitefish man.

Daniel Edward Duffey entered the plea during a Feb. 22 arraignment hearing in Flathead County District Court before Judge Dan Wilson.

Judge Wilson also denied the defendant’s request for a bond reduction at the hearing, keeping the bail amount at $50,000.

“The range of behaviors alleged and for which there’s probable cause to believe is so wide and so concerning and apparently – at least the context so far presented to the court – without any sort of rational explanation and beyond the bounds of rational beliefs,” Judge Wilson said. “It’s the court’s finding that Mr. Duffey presents a real threat and danger to the safety of the community.”

Duffey’s defense attorney William Managhan argued to the court that although Duffey has a deferred sentence from another felony, his client is charged with a non-violent offense and his residence in Billings provides a significant distance from the victims involved.

Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner argued that Duffey had previously traveled far distances to harass the victim, he obtained confidential information and he went to great lengths to “terrify his victims.”

“They’ve expressed to me that they are adamantly opposed to Mr. Duffey’s release or a reduction in his bond,” Ahner said.

“To quote the victims, they’re terrified of Mr. Duffey and his behavior,” Ahner added.

In addition to the recent alleged offenses, Duffey has accrued multiple misdemeanor convictions, including a DUI conviction from 2014 in Fairbanks, Alaska, and a separate count of making false statement to obtain benefits from 2021 in Arizona, according to prosecutors. Duffey also was charged with a felony count of criminal mischief in Gallatin County, which was eventually dismissed.

According to charging documents filed in Flathead County on Feb. 5, the victim on Jan. 21 reported the harassment to the Whitefish Police Department (WPD), telling officers that Duffey repeatedly contacted him and his family, making unfounded accusations of sexual assault. The defendant is also accused of launching a campaign to tarnish the victim’s reputation by printing out flyers with graphics stating his identity and that he sexually assaults men.

The victim told authorities that he met Duffey at a football game in Missoula in November. After learning they had a shared interest in rugby, the men exchanged numbers and socialized again later that night.

About one week after meeting one another, Duffey contacted the victim about a rugby connection. The following week, Duffey once again reached out to the victim to ask if he wanted to get a beer. When the victim didn’t respond, he said he later received a text from Duffey accusing him of being “all over” Duffey and sexually assaulting him, according to documents.

The victim denied the accusation and said Duffey continued texting him and would apologize for the allegations but then would “blow up” when he didn’t respond. Duffey then threatened to report the alleged incident if he didn’t admit it and apologize to him.

Duffey continued texting and threatening the victim and eventually contacted his fiancé and future in-laws, as well as his employer and coworkers, a local rugby team and their business sponsors, according to records. Duffey initiated the contact via text, Facebook messaging, emails and letters. The victim’s mother-in-law received a letter from the defendant that detailed claims of sexual assault and photos of Duffey with well-known politicians, records state.

According to documents, Duffey continued harassing the victim and wrote more accusations on his wedding website.

On Feb. 2, law enforcement collected 20 flyers that were found on vehicles at a Kalispell bar revealing the victim’s identity, his rugby team affiliation and stating, “I sexually assault men.” Dozens more flyers were found at the victim’s wedding venue in Whitefish and in their neighborhood.

The defendant continued sending threatening messages to the victim’s fiancé with a different phone number on Feb. 3, and a WPD officer arrested Duffey later that day during a traffic stop. After obtaining a search warrant, officers found 26 flyers, a poster board with the victim’s photo on it, and envelopes addressed to the victim’s employer, coworkers, and family members.

According to the Associated Press, Duffey was fired in 2020 when the Gianforte campaign learned he was under investigation after he was accused of using his own car door to strike the side of another car multiple times in a restaurant parking lot in Bozeman. No charges were filed in that case. Prior to his arrest, the Lee newspapers’ Montana State News Bureau attributed information to Duffey and described his involvement in Montana Policy Action, a 501(c)4 nonprofit group that purchased $182,000 in television ads targeting Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale. At the time, Rosendale still had not announced his run for the U.S. Senate, a bid he dropped less than a week later.

Duffey is scheduled to stand trial on July 22. He faces a maximum sentence of five years on the Montana State Prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

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