South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) was convicted by the state’s Senate Tuesday on two impeachment charges related to his September 2020 car crash that killed a pedestrian on the highway.
The state’s chief law enforcement officer was convicted by the South Dakota Senate of committing a crime that caused someone’s death and a charge of malfeasance, alleging he misled investigators through his testimony of the fatal crash. He was the first official in the state’s history to be impeached and convicted.
“The convictions required a two-thirds majority. Senators only mustered the bare minimum 24 votes to convict Ravnsborg on the first charge, with some senators saying the two misdemeanors he pleaded guilty to weren’t serious enough crimes to warrant impeachment. The malfeasance charge … sailed through with 31 votes,” the Associated Press reported.
On the night of the crash, Ravnsborg reportedly called 911 and told the dispatcher he thought he struck a large animal, such as a deer, The Daily Wire previously reported. 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.
“As I walked along the shoulder of the road, I discovered the body of Mr. Boever, in the grass just off the roadway. My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased,” said Ravnsborg, who added that he promptly drove to the sheriff’s home to notify him.
Criminal investigators and numerous lawmakers ultimately did not believe Ravnsborg’s retelling of the events. “There’s no question that was a lie,” said top-ranking Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, according to the AP. “This person ran down an innocent South Dakotan.”
Articles of impeachment were filed against him in February 2021 after he was charged with three misdemeanors, 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 of careless driving, according to The Grand Forks Herald.
Ravnsborg settled with Boever’s widow in September 2021, but the amount of the settlement was undisclosed. The disgraced attorney general also ended his criminal case last year when he pleaded no contest to two traffic misdemeanors.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R), who called for Ravnsborg to resign after the fatal crash, will appoint a new attorney general to take his place before voters decide in November who will ultimately take the office.
Eric Quintanar contributed to this report.