GOP lawmakers consider impeaching Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg

After more than a year of avoiding jail time related to the murder of a pedestrian, South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg may finally be held accountable for his actions. Calls for his resignation are increasing nationwide as he faces an impeachment inquiry.

Investigations into his actions were opened up to the public by Ravnsborg’s Republican colleague, Gov. Kristi Noem. According to Daily Kos, new evidence in the case was shared in March by a Noem appointee.

The GOP attorney general was driving home from a political fundraiser on Sept. 12 when he struck a man, who was walking on the side of a highway. In a 911 call after the crash, Ravnsborg claimed he hit a deer. He said he didn't realize he struck a man until he returned to the crash scene the next day and discovered the body of Joseph Boever. He failed to mention that the victim’s glasses were in his car. Claiming he did nothing wrong, Ravnsborg insisted he remains the state's top law enforcement officer.

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At the time, many Republicans supported this decision, but his popular predecessor Marty Jackley has gathered even more support, causing GOP officials to slowly “turn” on Ravnsborg and rethink his driving accident.

According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the South Dakota House of Representatives will decide whether or not Ravnsborg can stay in office on Tuesday. The vote could end as the state Capitol’s first-ever impeachment of a constitutional officer.

The move follows an investigation recommended to the House Select Committee last month. Despite investigations and new evidence being introduced, the chamber decided not to vote to impeach following a secret closed meeting on March 28. Since then, resolutions have pushed representatives to rethink their decision.

"This is long overdue, and hopefully, we can get the situation resolved for the betterment of the people of South Dakota," Rep. Sydney Davis told the Argus Leader.

Others "on the fence” expressed similar concerns, including Republican State Rep. Charlie Hoffman, who was swayed after a presentation by South Dakota Highway Patrol troopers last Wednesday, in which Ravnsborg was proven to be a reckless driver.

“After seeing the length of time Mr. Boever’s body was on the AG’s car with his head inside of the AG’s car’s window, and then flying off hitting the middle of the lane behind the AG’s car, leaving bone fragments on the road and skidding into the ditch at 65 mph, my mind has changed,” he told The Daily Beast on Friday. “I now have irrefutable evidence the AG knew exactly what he hit and lied to investigators and the Hyde County sheriff.”

The presentation confirmed multiple speeding tickets and other driving violations Ravnsborg had received.

According to the Dakota Free Press, investigations have found various discrepancies and issues in how the case was handled. The sheriff who allegedly gave Ravnsborg a ride after the incident not only failed to investigate the accident but ignored scenes of the crime, including Boever’s flashlight, which he assumed was from Ravnsborg’s car.

The decision to impeach now lies in the hands of the full House. Given the new details the Department of Public Safety provided this week to prove Ravnsborg was distracted the night he killed Boever, one can hope the House will make the right decision.

Republican Attorney General who killed a man with his car has to answer for new evidence

Back in September 2020, 55-year-old Joseph Boever was struck and killed by a car being driven by South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. Boever was walking on the side of Highway 14 around 10:30 PM when Ravnsborg’s car drifted into the shoulder of the highway and hit Boever. Ravnsborg had been driving home from a Republican fundraiser and reportedly called 911 at the time, claiming to the dispatcher that he might have hit a deer. A sheriff’s deputy came out to quickly survey the attorney general’s car before giving him a ride home.

It wasn’t until the following morning, when Ravnsborg returned to the site, that he discovered Boever’s body. From there a long and drawn out investigation ended this past year with Ravnsborg pleading guilty to three misdemeanor charges, serving no time in jail, and paying out $5,000 in fines and court costs. At the time, Boever’s family said the results were “not the ending we hoped for.” This was in part because the investigation was opened up to the public by Ravnsborg’s Republican colleague, Gov. Kristi Noem. Noem has long been calling for Ravnsborg’s resignation, and the attorney general has been facing an impeachment inquiry.

On Wednesday, new evidence was leaked out by way of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price, A Noem appointee. Price sent a letter to South Dakota’s Republican Speaker Spencer Gosch that relitigated quite a bit of the evidence that was already known—and also added some information that was not public knowledge.

Related: What’s the cost of a deadly hit-and-run? For one South Dakota official, it’s $5,000 and no jail time

Related: South Dakota attorney general pleads to misdemeanor, avoids jail time for killing man with his car 

Price tweeted out the letter he sent to make sure the public at large got an eyeful of Ravnsborg’s guilt and felt no doubt over his level of responsibility in Boever’s death. The letter, among other things, claimed that Ravnsborg “had been pulled over for traffic offenses eight times between taking office in 2019 and the fatal crash, including five in which he either identified himself as the attorney general or displayed a badge.” He was never ticketed during any of those stops. But before he had that position, he had received more than a half dozen tickets for speeding.

Also damning, according to Price’s letter, is a claim that Ravnsborg, his Division of Criminal Investigation director, and his chief of staff shared “disparaging and offensive statements regarding other law enforcement officers, judges, a supreme court justice, a legislator, prosecutors, staff members, a former Attorney General, and A United States Senator” by way of text messages. Also, maybe as a teaser, Price wrote about “Text messages that the investigation uncovered between the Attorney General and what appears to be a political consultant wherein the consultant indicated, referring to the deceased, “Well, at least the guy was a Democrat.” The message seems to have been sent just two days after Boever was killed.

In the interest of continued transparency on this important issue, I sent this letter to the Honorable Speaker Gosch today. I can’t speak for the committee, but I’m confident they are interested in the truth and facts as well.

— Craig Price (@PriceDPS1) March 10, 2022

Boever was a registered Democrat but his cousin, former state legislator Nick Nemec, told The Daily Beast he wasn’t an active political operative: “He was just a voter.” Nemec pointed out that the letter was further proof of the battle going on in the GOP with “far-right Republicans, regular Republicans and Democrats. And there’s just turmoil in Pierre right now.”

There has been ample evidence that Ravnsborg’s story has changed and and been shaky from the start:

  1. His insistence that he had no idea what he had hit was called into question as Boever’s glasses were discovered on Ravnsborg’s passenger seat, meaning his face had slammed so hard into the window that his glasses went flying into the car.
  2. Ravnsborg insisted he had not been looking at his phone any time near when he hit Boever, until investigators presented him with evidence that he was reading some kind of “sonspiracy” article about President Joe Biden and China right around the time he hit Boever with his car.
  3. Ravnsborg’s insistence that he never exceeds the speed limits by more than 4 MPH are clearly untrue.
  4. According to Craig, Ravnsborg contacted digital evidence expert Brent Gromer to pick his brain about what investigators may be able to find on his phone. The interaction leads Gromer to write up a report on the meeting, and Ravnsborg has to admit he has made contact with Gromer later on to investigators after having denied any such contact.

One thing Boever’s family could not have foreseen was that right-wing MAGA monster Noem’s ambitions to control her political party would potentially help them receive some justice in the form of political retribution against Ravnsborg.