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South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has been charged with several misdemeanors after fatally striking a pedestrian with his car while driving on the highway at night, state authorities announced in a press conference Thursday.
Ravnsborg, 44, has been charged with three misdemeanor offenses in connection with the incident, including one count of operating his car while using a cellphone, one count of failing to stay in his lane on the highway, and one count for careless driving, according to The Grand Forks Herald. Each of the three misdemeanor charges carries a maximum penalty of thirty days in jail and a $500 fine, according to officials.
Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell said these charges were supported by the evidence but emphasized that Ravnsborg was not using his phone at the time of the accident. Ravnsborg was, however, using one of his cell phones a minute before the crash, she said.
Michael Moore, the South Dakota state’s attorney for Beadle County, said a vehicular manslaughter charge couldn’t apply because there was no evidence that Ravnsborg was intoxicated and driving in a negligent manner — two criteria necessary for prosecutors to bring such a charge forward.
Sovell said manslaughter would also not apply because such a charge requires a person to “consciously and unjustifiably” disregard a “substantial risk,” a step further than mere negligence. “Operation of a motor vehicle in violation of a law is not in and of itself sufficient to constitute the recklessness required for that manslaughter statue, even if a person is killed as a result,” she explained.
Back in September, Ravnsborg told authorities that he believed he may have struck a deer or some other type of large animal on the highway while returning from a Saturday night fundraiser. As The Daily Wire previously reported:
According to Ravnsborg, he was leaving a fundraiser when his car “struck something that I believed to be a large animal (likely a deer).” He promptly pulled over and called 9-1-1, and inspected the scene while the sheriff arrived.
Once the sheriff arrived, said Ravnsborg, neither of them suspected a person had been hit with the car. Because the attorney general’s car was undrivable, and a tow truck would have taken over an hour to arrive, the two went to the sheriff’s house and Ravnsborg borrowed the sheriff’s personal car to drive home.
The following morning, the state attorney general said, he was on his way to return the car, along with his chief of staff, when the two stopped by the site of the accident to see if they could find the animal he believed he had hit the preceding evening.
Instead, the two found the body of Joseph Boever, 55, a nearby resident of Highmore, South Dakota, in a ditch.
The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation headed the investigation into the accident due to conflict of interest concerns. Sovell said that the investigation remains active.