South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg impeached over fatal accident

The South Dakota House on Tuesday impeached the state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg about a fatal accident in 2020 in which he first told authorities he thought he hit a deer or other large animal.

Ravnsborg will be at least temporarily removed from office pending the historic Senate trial, where a two-thirds majority is needed to be convicted on impeachment.

Ravnsborg pleaded without contest last year to a pair of traffic offenses in the accident, including an illegal lane change. He called Joseph Boever’s death a tragic accident.

On Monday night, he sent lawmakers a pair of defiant letters urging them to vote against impeachment.

“In a few hours, your vote will set a precedent for years to come,” Ravnsborg said in the first of two letters sent Monday evening and obtained by Chief Argus. “No state has ever impeached an elected official for a traffic accident.”

The South Dakota legislature had never investigated the impeachment of an elected official and only once, in 1917, had launched an impeachment inquiry into a circuit judge.

Ravnsborg’s letter also accused Republican Governor Kristi Noem of interfering with the investigation and supporting impeachment because of the attorney general’s investigations into her behavior. A second letter from Ravnsborg’s spokesperson delved into “evidence, allegations and misconceptions” about the case.

In its 36-31 vote, the House rejected a GOP-backed majority report’s recommendation of a special investigative committee and sided with Noem, who argued Ravnsborg lied to investigators . Democrats had also pushed for impeachment, arguing that he was not “next” to law enforcement and had abused the power of his office.

Ravnsborg, who took office in 2019, first told aides and a 911 dispatcher He did not know what he hit on a rural road while returning home from a Republican dinner in September 2020. He returned to the scene the next day and found the body de Boever, 55, who was walking on the shoulder of the freeway.

Highway Patrol concluded that Ravnsborg’s car had driven completely across the highway shoulder before hitting Boever, and criminal investigators later said they did not believe some of Ravnsborg’s statements.

The Special Investigative Committee report argued that Ravnsborg’s actions in the crash were unrelated to his official duties.

But some Republicans have cast doubt on the reconstruction of the crash and where Boever was when he was hit. Ravnsborg, who said little about the crash, denied lying in a brief interview in February.

Ravnsborg is positioning himself for a re-election bid. He would face a Republican challenger, former Attorney General Marty Jackley, at the June GOP convention which decides its next nominee.

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