PIERRE, S.D. — Two newly released videos of interviews with South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg reveal new evidence — a pair of the victim's glasses and a flashlight — at the scene of the fatal collision west of Highmore, S.D., on the evening of Sept. 12, casting further doubt on Ravnsborg's initial public statement contending that he believed he'd hit a wild animal, and not a human, at the time of the crash.
The videos were released Tuesday evening, Feb. 23, by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety at the direction of Gov. Kristi Noem.
In one 10-minute span of the second video (beginning at 1 hour and 10 minutes), investigators from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation appear skeptical of Ravnsborg's repeated claim that he didn't see the victim, 55-year-old Joseph Boever, laying along the roadside after he was struck by the AG's speeding Ford Taurus on the north shoulder of U.S. Highway 14.
"I want you to be real honest right now," said an investigator, "Did you see the flashlight he was carrying?"
"No," Ravnsborg said. "No flashlight."
In filing three misdemeanor charges last week against Ravnsborg, Deputy Sully County State's Attorney Emily Sovell said "no artificial light" illuminated the dark road less than a mile from town the night of the crash, making it presumable that Ravnsborg wouldn't have seen the victim's body.
However, in the video interviews, investigators press further, suggesting they'd reconstructed the crash scene on the western outskirts of Highmore, and that a flashlight — which was still on when investigators reached the scene the next day — would've lit up "like a beacon."
"It's hard to miss," said another investigator.
"I don't know if I turned around the wrong spot," Ravnsborg said. "I did not see a flashlight. No. I did not. I did not. I did not know it was a man until it was the next day."
In an earlier moment in that same interview, investigators asked how Ravnsborg — who'd reached over shattered glass on his passenger side to reach his insurance card — did not see the victim's glasses, which had come through into Ravnsborg's Taurus after Boever's head punctured the windshield.
"His glasses are right there," said the investigator. "Those are Joe's."
"I wondered about that," Ravnsborg said.
"So that means his face came through your windshield," said the investigator.
In the video, Ravnsborg reacts by dropping his head and sighing loudly.
South Dakota officials released the video the same day Noem called on fellow Republican Ravnsborg to step down. A bipartisan trio of lawmakers also introduced two articles of impeachment — the first time such articles have been brought in state history — against the attorney general.
Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign. I have reviewed the material we are releasing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well.
Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign. I have reviewed the material we are releasing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well.— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) February 23, 2021
In a statement released by his personal publicist on Tuesday evening, Ravnsborg invoked his service in the Army Reserves and work as an attorney to fight "for the rule of law."
"The Attorney General does not intend to resign," said the statement, attributed to Mike Deaver. "At no time has this issue impeded his ability to do the work of the office."
Any impeachment effort would need a majority vote in the South Dakota House of Representatives and a two-thirds vote in the 35-member state Senate. Prime sponsor of the impeachment articles, Rep. Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, who represents the rural county where Boever was killed, declined to answer at a news conference in the statehouse's rotunda on Tuesday evening whether he'd secured the necessary votes in the Senate to convict the attorney general.
"I don't think that Jason Ravnsborg belongs in jail or in prison," Mortenson said. "I know for sure he doesn't belong in the Office of the Attorney General."
A debate on the resolution bringing impeachment has not yet been scheduled for debate in the House. State law requires the subject of an impeachment trial — should the House be convicted — be given 20 days notice prior to Senate proceedings.