South Dakota House moves to impeach AG after fatal crash

Stephen Groves
Associated Press

Pierre, S.D. – South Dakota House lawmakers on Tuesday began impeachment proceedings against the state’s attorney general, who is facing misdemeanor charges for striking and killing a man with his car and is already under pressure to resign.

Republican lawmakers introduced a resolution in the House to impeach the state’s top law enforcement officer, Jason Ravnsborg, after he indicated Monday he would not heed calls for his resignation.

In this Feb. 23, 2014, file photo, Jason Ravnsborg speaks in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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The Republican attorney general faces three misdemeanor charges but no felonies in the September death of 55-year-old Joseph Boever.

Lawmakers argued in the impeachment resolution that Ravnsborg should be removed from office for “his crimes or misdemeanors in office causing the death” of Boever.

The resolution also stated that Ravnsborg’s conduct following the crash was “unbecoming” and his “statements and actions failed to meet the standard” of his office.

Shortly before the impeachment resolution was filed, Gov. Kristi Noem called for him to step down. The governor’s spokesman Ian Fury said she also supports the impeachment resolution.

“Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign,” Noem said in a statement.

A spokesman for Ravnsborg did not respond to a request for comment.

This Sept. 15, 2020 photo provided by the state of South Dakota shows The car that South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was driving on Sept. 12, 2020 when he he struck and killed a pedestrian.

It would take a simple majority in the House to advance the impeachment charges to the Senate. There, it would require two-thirds of senators to convict and remove him from office. State law requires senators to wait 20 days from when the attorney general receives a copy of the impeachment charges before beginning the trial. Noem would get to appoint a replacement if Ravnsborg leaves or is removed from office.

The attorney general, who was elected to his first term in 2018, was driving home to Pierre from a Republican fundraiser late on Sept. 12 when he struck and killed Boever, who was walking on the shoulder of the highway. Ravnsborg initially told authorities that he thought he had struck a deer or another large animal and said he searched the unlit area with a cellphone flashlight. He said he didn’t realize he had killed a man until the next day when he returned to the accident scene.

After an investigation that stretched over five months, prosecutors said they still had questions about the crash but were unable to file more serious criminal charges against Ravnsborg. They charged him with careless driving, driving out of his lane and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone.

Prosecutors found he was not using his phone at the time of the crash, but had been using it while driving about one minute before. The attorney general could face up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine on each charge, if convicted.

Michael Moore, the Beadle County State’s Attorney who is assisting in the case, said Monday that when Ravnsborg was interviewed by law enforcement following the crash, he was not clear about what had caused him to swerve on to the shoulder of the highway and gave “varying examples of possibly what could have happened.”

Noem has promised to release more details of the crash investigation this week.