South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg impeached by Senate, removed from seat

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On Tuesday, two months after the South Dakota House of Representatives voted to impeach Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) for fatally running over a man and leaving the scene because he thought he hit a deer, the Senate of the state convicted him on two impeachment charges. in connection with the 2020 incident.

The Senate voted to impeach the attorney general and bar Ravnsborg — the first South Dakota official to be impeached — from running for office in the state.

The first conviction was for causing the death of 55-year-old Joseph Boever on September 12, 2020. The Senate also found Ravnsborg guilty of misleading investigators and using his position as a senior enforcement of state laws to attempt to favorably shape the course of the investigation.

“This person knocked down an innocent man from South Dakota,” Senator Lee Schoenbeck, the Senate’s highest-ranking Republican, said during his remarks, the Associated Press reported.

Schoenbeck also condemned Ravnsborg for refusing to testify during the Senate trial and for failing to disclose “what he was doing” the night of the crash.

Neither Ravnsborg’s office nor his private spokesperson immediately responded to messages from The Washington Post on Tuesday evening. Ravnsborg and his attorney declined to speak to reporters as they left the room after the vote, the Argus chief reported.

Nick Nemec, Boever’s cousin, said the verdict followed a two-year wait.

“Today felt like a heavyweight was taken away from me,” Nemec, 63, told The Post in an interview. “When the Lieutenant Governor slammed the gavel on the table and announced that the Attorney General had been removed from office, I was relieved.”

Boever’s widow, Jennifer Mohr Boever, did not immediately respond to a message from The Post.

South Dakota’s attorney general said he thought he hit a deer. The next day he found the body of a dead man in a ditch.

Ravnsborg said he was driving home from a GOP fundraiser in Redfield, SD, around 10:30 p.m. that September night when his car hit a tall figure in the dark. Ravnsborg said he believed he hit a deer and said he searched a ditch along Highway 14 with his cellphone’s flashlight.

“All I could see were pieces of my vehicle lying on and around the roadway,” he said in a statement at the time. The sheriff arrived and inspected the damage, but Ravnsborg said neither of them suspected anyone had been injured in the crash. Ravnsborg denied drinking the night of the incident.

The next morning, Ravnsborg and his chief of staff returned to the scene.

“As I was walking along the shoulder of the road, I discovered Mr. Boever’s body in the grass just beside the roadway,” Ravnsborg said. “It was obvious that Mr. Boever was deceased.”

Shortly after finding the man’s body, he added, he drove to the sheriff’s home and reported the new information.

Boever’s family expressed doubts about Ravnsborg’s story and raised concerns that it took authorities nearly 24 hours to notify them of Boever’s death. Last September, Ravnsborg settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Boever’s widow, Chief Argus reported. The terms of the settlement remain confidential.

In August, Ravnsborg did not contest two traffic offense charges and avoided jail time.

Earlier this year, a group of lawmakers led by state Rep. Will Mortenson (right) filed two papers seeking to impeach Ravnsborg after the South Dakota Department of Public Safety released two three-hour interviews between Ravnsborg and detectives who raised questions about Ravnsborg’s behavior. Many politicians, including Governor Kristi L. Noem (R), demanded his resignation. But Ravnsborg refused to withdraw.

Ravnsborg, who remained suspended from office pending the outcome of the Senate trial, told the Post in a statement earlier this year that he looks forward to the trial, “where I believe I will be vindicated.”

South Dakota AG pressured by critics to quit over new evidence in fatal car crash: ‘He knew what he hit and he lied’

Twenty-four senators voted to convict Ravnsborg of committing a crime causing someone’s death, barely achieving the two-thirds majority needed to do so. The embezzlement charge passed with 31 votes, while all lawmakers voted to bar Ravnsborg from future office.

Later Tuesday, Noem took to social media to hail the lawmakers’ decision.

“After almost 2 years, the dark cloud over the office of the Attorney General has been lifted. Now is the time to move on and start rebuilding trust in the office,” she said. tweeted.

Nemec said he and his brother shook hands after the end of the “emotional” day of justice for their cousin.

“[Ravnsborg] won’t be able to live his life as attorney general, but he still has his life,” Nemec told the Post. “He can live another life. Joe is dead, and Joe will be dead forever. This is the cold, hard truth.

Katie Shepherd and Julian Mark contributed to this report.

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