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Senate to meet Tuesday to decide Ravnsborg's fate as Attorney General, 21 months after fatal crash

The state’s constitution requires that a two-thirds majority of senators—24 of 35—must vote to uphold the articles of impeachment.

Ravnsborg election photop.jpg
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg addresses supporters after his election win in 2018. Ravnsborg was impeached April 12 and is awaiting a Senate trial that is set to begin June 21.
Photo Courtesy Sioux Falls Argus Leader
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PIERRE — It has been roughly 21 months since a vehicle driven by South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever of Highmore. What follows is an overview of the events that followed, taken from various news sources.

The long road to its first impeachment of a statewide elected official started on U.S. Highway 14. It began on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, when Ravnsborg, driving his personal vehicle to Pierre from a political event in Redfield, struck and killed Boever as he walked along the north shoulder of the road, facing traffic.

Ravnsborg called 911, explaining that he did not know what he hit. A search of the scene, in the dark, did not reveal what the vehicle hit. Ravnsborg drove the Hyde County sheriff’s personal vehicle home, returning to the accident scene the next day to find Boever’s body.

Ravnsborg originally was charged with three misdemeanors. One charge – careless driving -- was dropped in exchange for no-contest pleas on two charges: an illegal lane change for driving on the shoulder of the highway and illegal use of an electronic device while operating a vehicle. Ravnsborg was fined $500 for each offense. He never appeared in court.

Aside from the judicial outcome, Gov. Kristi Noem, who, like Ravnsborg is a Republican, has been adamant that Ravnsborg should resign. On Feb. 23, 2021, Noem offered a formal statement calling for the attorney general’s resignation. The next day, Rep. Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, introduced a resolution in the Legislature seeking Ravnsborg’s impeachment.

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During a special session in November 2021, the House voted 58-10 to create a select committee on investigations to decide if Ravnsborg’s conduct in Boever’s death involved impeachable offenses. The committee eventually voted 6-2 to issue a majority report saying that the attorney general’s actions didn’t warrant impeachment.

The Republican majority on the committee reasoned that Ravnsborg’s accident didn’t take place during the performance of his duties as attorney general and, consequently, didn’t rise to the level of impeachment. A minority report by the committee’s two Democrats called for impeachment.

Despite the results of the majority report, on April 12, the House voted to issue two articles of impeachment. To move on to the next phase, the vote on the articles of impeachment needed a majority of the chamber's 70 members, and it got just that with a 36-31 vote.

In a last minute letter to the House of Representatives, Ravnsborg attempted to tell lawmakers justice had been served, and that he need not be impeached. That letter is a one reason Rep. Lance Koth, R-Mitchell, changed his mind and voted to impeach.

One count calls for Ravnsborg’s impeachment because of the crimes related to Boever’s death. The second count says Ravnsborg misrepresented what happened in the 911 call and during the investigation of the accident. That count also asserts that the attorney general used the resources of his office for his personal benefit during the investigation.

In accordance with the state constitution, once the House voted to impeach Ravnsborg, he was suspended from his duties as attorney general.

The Senate trial on June 21 and 22 will determine Ravnsborg’s fate. The attorney general will be represented by attorney Michael Butler of Sioux Falls. The prosecutors for the impeachment trial will be Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo and Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy.

The state’s constitution requires that a two-thirds majority of senators—24 of 35—must vote to uphold the articles of impeachment. A two-thirds majority vote upholding one or both counts would lead to another vote on whether Ravnsborg should be permanently barred from holding elective office. That vote also requires a two-thirds majority.

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