PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota history was made Tuesday.
By a slim margin, the House of Representatives voted to impeach South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for his actions regarding the crash and death of Joe Boever on the night of September 12, 2020.
Ravnsborg is the first statewide official in South Dakota to ever be impeached.
Despite a late released letter by Ravnsborg to all members of the House asking not to be impeached, a simple majority voted to suspend the attorney general from his duties.
After nearly 40 minutes of discussion, Rep. Will Mortenson (R-Pierre) wrapped up by saying being an elected official is a privilege not a right. The final vote was 36 yes, 31 no and three excused. You can see the vote below.
No lawmakers spoke in Ravnsborg’s defense on Tuesday. Ravnsborg will now have a trial in the Senate, no sooner than May and Senate leaders have suggested it may happen in June.
Voted yes on impeachment
David Anderson (R-Hudson)
Aaron Aylward (R-Harrisburg)
Hugh Bartels (R-Waterown)
Arch Beal (R-Sioux Falls)
Rocky Blare (R-Ideal)
Shawn Bordeaux (D-Mission)
Kirk Chaffee (R-Whitewood)
Roger Chase (R-Huron)
Ryan Cwach (D-Yankton)
Sydney Davis (R-Burbank)
Mike Derby (R-Rapid City)
Fred Deutsch (R-Florence)
Becky Drury (R-Rapid City)
Linda Duba (D-Sioux Falls)
Mary Fitzgerald (R-Spearfish)
Tim Goodwin (R-Rapid City)
Erin Healy (D-Sioux Falls)
Charlie Hoffman (R-Eureka)
Jennifer Keintz (D-Eden)
Lance Koth (R-Mitchell)
Trish Ladner (R-Hot Springs)
Oren Lesmeister (D-Parade)
Will Mortenson (R-Pierre)
Jess Olson (R-Rapid City)
Peri Pourier (D-Pine Ridge)
Tim Reed (R-Brookings)
Taylor Rehfeldt (R-Sioux Falls)
Lynn Schneider (R-Huson)
Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls)
Tamara St. John (R-Sisseton)
Richard Thomason (R-Sioux Falls)
Larry Tidemann (R-Brookings)
Mike Weisgram (R-Fort Pierre)
Mark Willadsen (R-Sioux Falls)
Dean Wink (R-Howes)
Nancy York (R-Watertown)
Voted no on impeachment
Doug Barthel (R-Sioux Falls)
Drew Dennert (R-Aberdeen)
Caleb Finck (R-Tripp)
Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham)
Lana Greenfield (R-Doland)
Randy Gross (R-Elkton)
Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids)
Steven Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls)
Greg Jamison (R-Sioux Falls)
Kevin Jensen (R-Canton)
Phil Jensen (R-Rapid City)
Chris Johnson (R-Rapid City)
Chris Karr (R-Sioux Falls)
Sam Marty (R-Prairie City)
Liz May (R-Kyle)
John Mills (R-Volga)
Rhonda Milstead (R-Hartford)
Paul Miskimins (R-Mitchell)
Tina Mulally (R-Rapid City)
Ernie Otten (R-Tea)
Marty Overweg (R-New Holland)
Carl Perry (R-Aberdeen)
Kent Peterson (R-Salem)
Sue Peterson (R-Sioux Falls)
Tom Pischke (R-Dell Rapids)
Tony Randolph (R-Rapid City)
Rebecca Reimer (R-Chamberlain)
Bethany Soye (R-Sioux Falls)
Mike Stevens (R-Yankton)
Richard Vasgaard (R-Centerville)
Kaleb Weis (R-Aberdeen)
Excused from impeachment vote
Rep. Scott Odenbach (R-Spearfish)
Rep. Taffy Howard (R-Rapid City)
Rep. Marli Wiese (R-Madison)
Here’s some of the comments from lawmakers on the motion to impeachment Ravnsborg.
“South Dakota deserves better,” said Rep. Mary Fitzgerald, a Republican from Spearfish. “I would ask that you support HR 7002, thank you.”
“I believe impeachment should be reserved only for grave and exceptional circumstances, and I believe this is one,” Mortenson said.
“The attorney general used the privileges of his office to learn about how the investigation would be conducted,” said Rep. Ryan Cwach, a Democrat from Yankton.
“We have a chance today to give him his trial,” said Rep. Tim Goodwin, a Republican from Rapid City. “All we have to do is send it over to the Senate, and they’ll have a trial.”
31 representatives voted against impeachment. Among them was Rep. Greg Jamison, a Republican from Sioux Falls, who cited the recent recommendation of the House Select Committee on Investigation to not impeach Ravnsborg.
“The Select Committee’s report, and the way that that came out and with their, all of the hours and time that they spent reviewing the evidence and the details, I had to accept them and their report as to the best findings,” Jamison said.
After nearly 40 minutes of discussion, Mortenson wrapped up by saying being an elected official is a privilege not a right.
The resolution on impeachment narrowly passed 36-31 with three excused.
By the slimmest of margins, the South Dakota House of Representatives has impeached Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. Resolution needed 36 votes, and it received 36 votes. Ravnsborg will now have a trial in the Senate.
No lawmakers spoke in Ravnsborg’s defense on Tuesday.
Rep. Oren L. Lesmeister (D-Parade) told lawmakers the state will get another attorney general if Ravnsborg is impeached and convicted by the Senate. Lesmeister said he received a message that Ravnsborg hasn’t apologized to Boever’s widow, Jennifer Boever.
Rep. Nancy York (R-Watertown) called on the House to “show sunlight” and vote for impeachment.
Rep. Mary Fitzgerald (R-Spearfish) called for the impeachment too. Her husband, Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald, was one of two lawyers that Ravnsborg defeated at the 2018 SD Republican state convention.
Rep. Tim Goodwin (R-Rapid City) said Ravnsborg as the state’s top law enforcement official is “on duty” 24-7. Goodwin said that’s what the people thought when they voted him into office.
Goodwin said Ravnsborg wanted a trial in his criminal case and he said the Senate will give Ravnsborg that trial and decide ultimately whether to remove him from office.
Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) is now moving an amendment, he says he doesn’t believe in the malfeasance tied to impeachment.
You can view Deutsch’s amendment on the South Dakota Legislative Research Council website. The amendment failed by a vote of 48-19 with three excused.
Rep. Ryan Cwach (D-Yankton) is arguing Ravnsborg committed malfeasance regarding the crash and death of Boever.
Cwach pointed out days after the crash Ravnsborg issued a statement with the Attorney General’s official letterhead. He said that’s important regarding the “in office” wording of impeachment in the South Dakota Constitution.
Rep. Mortenson is speaking to House members about his motion to impeach Ravnsborg. He said Ravnsborg ended the life of a constituent criminally and has not stepped down.
He also told lawmakers they should know they will set a precedent either way with Tuesday’s vote.
“His attention was not where it ought to have been on the road,” Mortenson told lawmakers.
While urging members to support his resolution, Mortenson noted lawmakers wouldn’t be in Pierre if a citizen had not died.
“Our duty is triggered when our state is not served,” Mortenson said.
The House voted 51-16 with three excused to put Mortenson’s impeachment resolution on the calendar for discussion on the House floor.
Along with Rep. Scott Odenbach, who announced last week he’d not attend the impeachment special session, Reps Taffy Howard (R-Rapid City) and Rep. Marli Wiese (R-Madison) were excused on the vote.
The House has gaveled in to start the session.
The House chamber remains mostly empty as House Republicans have been meeting in a closed-door caucus since 9:30 a.m. CT.
Once the session begins, the stream will start in the player above.
Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) has filed a possible amendment that would remove the ‘malfeasance’ allegations from the resolution of impeachment filed by Rep. Mortenson.
You can view Deutsch’s amendment on the South Dakota Legislative Research Council website.
Mortenson officially filed a resolution seeking Ravnsborg’s impeachment. His resolution argues that the illegal lane change was a crime and Ravnsborg should face an impeachment trial in the Senate.
Mortenson’s resolution further argues that Ravnsborg committed malfeasance:
“(1) Immediately following the collision, Attorney General Ravnsborg identified himself by his official title and made a direct misrepresentation to the dispatch officer, misleading first responders as to the crime he had just committed;
(2) During the investigation, Attorney General Ravnsborg made numerous misrepresentations and misstatements of fact to law enforcement and to the public regarding his conduct surrounding his criminal acts; and
(3) Attorney General Ravnsborg used assets of the Office of the Attorney General to benefit himself personally with respect to the investigation into his criminal activity.“
KELOLAND’s Bob Mercer is reporting Boever’s cousin, Nick Nemec arrived at the Capitol at about 9 a.m. Mercer reported House Republicans met in a closed-door caucus at 9:30 a.m. CT. Special legal counsel Sara Frankenstein also arrived in House.
As lawmakers gather Tuesday, the phrase from the South Dakota Constitution defining impeachable offenses includes the “for drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office.”
The House Select Committee on Investigation, in a 6-2 vote, issued a report that said Ravnsborg technically wasn’t performing a duty of his elected office on the night of September 12, 2020.
On Tuesday morning, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem issued a response to the attorney general’s letter on her Twitter account.
She noted Ravnsborg ““had months to offer his testimony to the impeachment committee but instead waited until the night before the House meets.”
“The people of SD deserve to know the truth. The facts speak for themselves. Anyone who wants to know the facts should ignore the AG’s bizarre letter and instead read Secretary Price’s letter to Speaker Gosch and watch the Highway Patrol presentation from last week,” Gov. Noem said in a Tweet.
With less than 24 hours until a special session on his possible impeachment in the South Dakota House of Representatives, Ravnsborg sent a letter to all members of the House asking them to not impeach him.
His letter warns state representatives of the “dangerous precedent” impeaching him could set, saying it could mean all elected officials would need to be held accountable for any “traffic accident.”
He accused Governor Kristi Noem of politically weaponizing the matter, saying “she took the unfortunate circumstances of a man being killed in a traffic accident to make her political moves.”
Here is Ravnsborg’s letter to lawmakers:
Mortenson’s new resolution alleges that Ravnsborg’s malfeasance includes:
Identifying himself by his official title when he called 911 immediately after the crash and “made a direct misrepresentation to the dispatch officer, misleading first responders as to the crime he had just committed;”
During the investigation, Ravnsborg “made numerous misrepresentations and misstatements of fact to law enforcement and to the public regarding his conduct surrounding his criminal acts;” and
Ravnsborg “used assets of the Office of the Attorney General to benefit himself personally with respect to the investigation into his criminal activity.”
In September 2020, Governor Kristi Noem held a news conference in Sioux Falls to announce Ravnsborg was involved in a fatal crash on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020.
In February of 2021, five months after the crash, the Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney announced three misdemeanor charges against Ravnsborg, all related to his driving, but not Boever’s death.
It was shortly after that the calls began for Ravnsborg to resign or be impeached; even the governor said he was unfit to hold office.
In August 2021, Ravnsborg’s lawyer pled no-contest to two misdemeanor counts on behalf of his client. Judge John Brown ordered Ravnsborg to pay $1,000 for the two misdemeanor counts, along with more than $3,000 to Hyde County for costs associated with the investigation.
In November 2021, the House voted 58-10 with two excused to start a second special session on the possible impeachment of Ravnsborg. House Resolution 7001 states the select committee “shall investigate whether the conduct of Jason Ravnsborg, Attorney General of the State of South Dakota, surrounding the death of Joe Boever, involved impeachable offenses.”
In January 2022, the nine-member House Select Committee on Investigation heard more than four hours of public testimony from six people directly involved in the initial investigation.
In March 2022, the panel voted 6-2 not to recommend impeachment. Voting in favor of not recommending impeachment were Reps. Doug Barthel (R-Sioux Falls), Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids), Steven Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls), Kevin Jensen (R-Canton), Kent Peterson (R-Salem) and Mike Stevens (R-Yankton.)
Voting against not recommending impeachment were Ryan Cwach (D-Yankton) and Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls).