South Dakota House to vote on impeachment of attorney general

The South Dakota House is due to decide on Tuesday whether Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should be impeached for his conduct before and after he hit and killed a pedestrian on the shoulder of a highway.

Soldiers said Ravnsborg was distracted before the September 2020 crash which killed Joseph Boever, 55. Ravnsborg initially told authorities he thought he hit a deer or other large animal. He returned the next day and found Boever’s body.

Opponents of the impeachment say Ravnsborg does not have to be held responsible by the House because he was not at work when the accident happened. He was coming back from a Republican fundraiser.

Ravnsborg called Boever’s death a tragic accident. He pleaded without contest last year to a pair of traffic offences, including illegal lane changing.

A investigation committee of the Republican-controlled House voted against the impeachment recommendation after arguments that Ravnsborg’s actions were not part of his official duties. Republican Governor Kristi Noem pushed for impeachment, saying Ravnsborg lied to investigators.

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.

Republican Representative Will Mortenson, of Pierre, brought articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg more than a year ago. He did not respond to phone messages left Monday by The Associated Press.

Last week, at the request of Republican Rep. Tim Goodwin of Rapid City, about 30 lawmakers attended a presentation by two Highway Patrol troopers outlining details of the investigation.

Goodwin said this raises doubts about the committee’s recommendation. House Speaker Spencer Gosch, who chaired the committee, called it a sales pitch. Gosch did not respond to phone messages on Monday.

While it’s unclear whether the presentation would have any effect on the impeachment vote, Noem’s spokesman referenced it Monday to sum up sentiments in the governor’s office.

“The presentation of the soldiers speaks better than I ever could,” said Ian Fury.

House Democratic Minority Leader Jamie Smith, a member of the impeachment inquiry committee, said the soldiers helped answer unanswered questions, but he doesn’t think they will change their minds. He expects Tuesday’s floor debate to last a few hours before the vote.

“As a member of the committee, I said I believed there were grounds for impeachment and I will stand by that,” Smith said.

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