PIERRE, S.D. — One week ago, three South Dakota lawmakers stood in the Capitol rotunda announcing an impeachment inquiry into the attorney general for killing a man with his vehicle on a rural road last fall.
Now, the House leader says he wants to pump the brakes.
On Tuesday, March 2, South Dakota House Speaker Spencer Gosch said in an email that he'd bring an amendment to House Resolution 7001, an impeachment resolution of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, stipulating that any proceeding await the verdict of a criminal case related to the fatal crash against Ravnsborg.
The House State Affairs committee is scheduled to debate the resolution on Wednesday morning, March 3, in Pierre.
Gosch's announcement follows a gag order issued last by a county judge against state officials, including Gov. Kristi Noem, for releasing three hours of previously undisclosed videos of North Dakota investigators questioning Ravnsborg.
Gosch, a Glenham Republican, in a news release on Tuesday, March 2, said that he wants the proceeding to be "transparent," but can't foresee a public discussion of potential impeachable offenses committed by Ravnsborg with that gag order in place.
"In light of the recent court order issued by the Honorable John Brown, we have some concerns on what our abilities are in a public proceeding," Gosch said.
The resolution's prime sponsor, Rep. Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, said in a statement he was "disappointed" by a delay, but understands "the desire for full transparency."
"I have not changed my mind about the duties owed by the South Dakota attorney general, nor about my conviction that those duties have been breached," said Mortenson, who repeated his call for Ravnsborg to resign.
The measure's cosponsors, Majority Leader Kent Peterson, R-Salem, and Minority Leader Jamie Smith, D-Sioux Falls, both agreed voting on the resolution prior to the Hyde County criminal case is complete would be a rush to judgment.
"I think that it is clear that Judge Brown's intent was to honor the right to due process, and a premature public proceeding might hinder that," said Peterson.
It's unclear how soon the criminal proceeding against Ravnsborg will commence. A spokesperson previously told Forum News Service that the misdemeanor charges stemming from the fatal accident — including illegal use of a cellphone, an improper lane change, and careless driving — were "in essence traffic citations."
Each charge carries a potential penalty of 30 days in jail or a $500 fine. Ravnsborg was not using his cellphone at the time of the impact with Joe Boever, a 55-year-old Highmore, S.D., man on the evening of Sept. 12, according to cellphone data released by prosecutors.