South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg impeached over fatal collision

The South Dakota House of Representatives voted Tuesday to impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) over a September 2020 incident in which Ravnsborg left the scene of a fatal collision, later claiming he thought he’d hit a deer.

Ravnsborg now faces a trial in the South Dakota Senate, which will decide whether the state’s top law enforcement official will keep his job and be eligible for future office. He’s the first South Dakota official to ever be impeached, the Associated Press reported.

At issue is whether the attorney general was responsible for the death of 55-year-old pedestrian Joseph Boever and whether Ravnsborg misled law enforcement officers immediately after the incident. In August, Ravnsborg pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor traffic charges in connection to the accident and avoided jail time.

“The House of Representatives voted and I respect the process but I look forward to the Senate trial where I believe I will be vindicated,” Ravnsborg, who is suspended from office pending the outcome of the trial, said Tuesday in a statement shared with The Washington Post.

Republicans overwhelmingly control both the House and Senate.

A day before the House vote, Ravnsborg sent a letter urging members to vote against his impeachment, saying it could “overturn an election and set forth a dangerous precedent for all South Dakota elected officials.”

He also said he thought about Boever daily and had apologized to his family.

But the House ultimately voted 36 to 31 in favor of impeachment. The vote went against the recommendation of a special committee’s findings that Ravnsborg did not commit an impeachable offense.

During the special session Tuesday, few defended Ravnsborg. Republican and Democratic House members alike urged their colleagues to send the matter to a trial in the Senate.

“Never before in our state’s history has it been that a state official criminally ended the life of one of our citizens and refused to resign from that post,” said Rep. Will Mortenson (R), who introduced the articles of impeachment. “This is a grave and exceptional situation.”

Eight Democrats and 28 Republicans voted in favor of impeachment, while all 31 votes against it came from Republicans, the AP reported.

Ravnsborg faced intense pressure to resign, including from Republican Gov. Kristi L. Noem, after recordings raised questions about whether Ravnsborg left the scene knowing he had struck someone. Soon after the Sept. 12, 2020, incident, Ravnsborg issued a statement saying that he first believed he hit a deer, left the scene and went back to the next day to find Boever dead in a ditch.

The recordings revealed that Boever’s glasses had been found inside Ravnsborg’s car, though the attorney general denied seeing them.

“His face was in your windshield, Jason. Think about that,” a detective said to him in one of the recordings.

South Dakota AG pushed by critics to resign over new evidence in fatal car incident: ‘He knew what he hit and he lied’

Still, Ravnsborg refused to resign. In his letter to House members, the attorney general said the incident has not impeded him as he performed his role, including conducting “multiple ongoing investigations” into Noem.

Ravnsborg did not mention specifics about those probes. But in September 2021, months after Noem called for Ravnsborg’s resignation, the attorney general said he was reviewing concerns that Noem had helped her daughter secure a real estate license, the Argus Leader reported.

The governor, in turn, urged people to “ignore the AG’s bizarre letter.”

“The Attorney General wants to make this about me to distract House members, when the question before them is whether he should be the state’s top law enforcement officer,” tweeted.

following the vote, she added that the House “did the right thing” for South Dakota residents and Boever’s family.

Boever’s cousin Nick Nemec told The Post that he was pleased with the House’s vote. “I would have hoped for a bigger margin, but he’s impeached,” he said.

The Senate now must wait 20 days to begin Ravnsborg’s trial.

“I hope they find him guilty,” Nemec said.

Leave a Comment