South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was convicted of two impeachment charges stemming from his involvement in a fatal car crash in 2020.
The charges include committing a crime that results in someone’s death and malfeasance.
The state senate found Ravnsborg misled investigators and misused his office. The votes on both charges bar the first-term Republican from holding office in the future.
In September of 2020, Ravnsborg hit Joseph Boever, 55, with his car on a rural highway. The night of the crash, the attorney general called 911 to say he believed he had hit a deer or another large animal. He later said he did not know he had struck Boever until he returned to the scene of the accident the following morning.
“There’s no question that was a lie,” said Senator Lee Schoenbeck during the trial, which began on June 21. “This person ran down an innocent South Dakotan.”
Schoenbeck also denounced Ravsborg for never explaining why his car left his lane of travel and hit Boever, who was walking on the side of the road.
Ravnsborg claimed his car was in the middle of the road, which is inconsistent with the findings of crash investigators.
The South Dakota House of Representatives voted 36-31 to impeach Ravnsborg on April 12.
“Our top law enforcement officer has misled law enforcement during the investigation of his crimes,” Representative Will Mortenson during the debate. “Never before in our state’s history has it been that a state official criminally ended the life of one of our citizens, and then refused to resign from his post.”
Mortenson, a Republican, carried the impeachment resolution.
Ravnsborg had told the House he believed he would be “vindicated” during the Senate trial. He was suspended from his duties while awaiting the senate trial. At the time of the House vote, Ravnsborg had not resigned from his position.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem called for Ravnsborg’s resignation in February after Hyde County deputy state attorney Emily Sovell charged the attorney general with three 2nd-class misdemeanors.
“Now that the investigation has closed and charges have been filed, I believe the Attorney General should resign,” Noem said in a statement, per KELOLand. “I have reviewed the material we are releasing, starting today, and I encourage others to review it as well.”
According to AP News, “Ravnsborg has argued that the governor, who has positioned herself for a possible 2024 White House bid, pushed for his removal in part because he had investigated ethics complaints against Noem.”
Noem said the Senate’s vote lifted a “dark cloud” from the Attorney General’s office.
“It is now time to move on and begin to restore confidence in the office,” she stated on Twitter.
The governor will now select Ravsborg’s interim replacement, who will hold the office until the general election in November.
Ravsborg pled no contest to two misdemeanor traffic charges in August and never went to jail for his involvement in Boever’s death. He also settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Boever’s widow in September of 2021 – the terms of which have not been made public.