SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg became the first statewide official to be impeached on April 12, 2022.
Despite a late letter released 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. The vote was close 36-31 with three excused.
The South Dakota Constitution says grounds for impeachment are “drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office.”
Officially, House Resolution 7001 called for House lawmakers to “investigate whether the conduct of Jason Ravnsborg, Attorney General of the State of South Dakota, surrounding the death of Joe Boever, involved impeachable offenses.”
On June 21, 2022, Ravnsborg became the first elected official convicted of impeachment.
On the first count, Senators voted 24-9 to convict Ravnsborg. On the second vote of impeachment, Senators voted 31-2 to convict.
On the third and fourth vote, Senators voted 33-0. It disqualifies Ravnsborg from ever holding any public office in South Dakota ever again.
Below is a timeline of official legislative and criminal events in the Ravnsborg saga. Each photo has a link to a KELOLAND News story regarding the respective events.
June 22, 2022
Members of the Senate said the mood of the Senate trial was “somber.”
Sen. Reynold Nesiba (D-Sioux Falls) said the prosecution team did an excellent job of just talking about what happened.
June 21, 2022
In a historic decision, the Senate has voted to sustain both articles of impeachment put forth by the House against Ravnsborg. He has also been barred from holding any office in the the state in the future.
On the first count, Senators voted 24-9 to convict Ravnsborg. On the second vote of impeachment, Senators voted 31-2 to convict.
There’s 33 Senators present for the trial in Pierre. The two Senators missing were Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) and Red Dawn Foster (D-Pine Ridge). A two-thirds majority of 24 Senators is required to convict Ravnsborg and remove him from office.
The long day inside the Senate chambers started with Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy telling Senators how someone responds to life altering moments defines a person.
She said the Attorney General had multiple opportunities “to do the right thing.”
“Whatever drew his attention we can say with certainty and he cannot deny he was distracted,” Tracy said.
Ravnsborg’s attorneys reminded the Senate that no elected official in South Dakota has ever been impeached and neither has a federal official.
“Make no mistake members of the Senate what you are here for is incredibly rare in the American experience,” An impeachment attorney with an office in Washington D.C. Ross Garber said.
April 13, 2022
Senator Lee Schoenbeck said on Wednesday the trial will be Tuesday and Wednesday, June 21-22, at the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre.
“It was the first two days that I could find that 100% of the senators were available – no easy task on short notice for summer scheduling,” Schoenbeck said.
The case for permanently removing Ravnsborg from office will be presented by Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo and Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy.
April 12, 2022
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.
“I believe impeachment should be reserved only for grave and exceptional circumstances, and I believe this is one,” Rep. Will Mortenson (R-Pierre) said.
No lawmakers spoke in Ravnsborg’s defense on Tuesday.
April 7, 2022
One member of South Dakota’s House of Representatives will not be voting during next week’s impeachment vote.
Scott Odenbach (R-Spearfish) announced Wednesday he’ll be recusing himself from the vote. In a letter to Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham), Odenbach said “to avoid even the appearance of impropriety I am writing to let you know that I will be recusing myself from the House vote and will not be attending the proceedings in Pierre on April 12th, 2022.”
April 6, 2022
Two members of the South Dakota Highway Patrol told state legislators about the investigation into the crash two years ago when the car driven by South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever at the west edge of Highmore.
Approximately 30 other legislators reportedly participated in a Zoom conference. Among those asking questions were representatives Mary Fitzgerald, R-Spearfish; Linda Duba, D-Sioux Falls; Fred Deutsch, R-Florence; Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka; Ryan Cwach, D-Yankton; Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade; and John Mills, R-Volga.
April 1, 2022
Another fight in the Ravnsborg impeachment investigation, this time over whether the state auditor and the Legislative Research Council can keep secret the outside legal contract.
The contract with the Rapid City-headquartered law firm of Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson and Ashmore doesn’t appear on the state government’s website where contracts are supposed to be listed as a matter of public transparency.
However, the site does show two March 25, 2022, payments to the law firm in the amounts of $11,789.14 and $75,545.85 with the description, “Legal Consultant.”
March 30, 2022
The state released hundreds of pages of documents and photos from the investigation including photos of the Attorney General’s car and of Boever’s broken glasses, which were found in Ravnsborg’s vehicle.
Posting of the 30-gigabyte file took legislative staff several days to accomplish.
March 28, 2022
Lawmakers on a special committee are not recommending impeachment for Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
The House Select Committee on Investigation made its official recommendation on a 6-2 vote during its 10th meeting Monday at the Capitol in Pierre.
Ravnsborg was driving his personal car back to his Pierre home from a Republican political event at Redfield on a Saturday night two years ago when he ran into a pedestrian and killed the man.
The House Select Committee on Investigation determined in its official report that the lane violation to which his defense lawyer pleaded no-contest for him was “a commonplace occurrence and is not an impeachable offense.” The report added, “Such a traffic violation should not serve as a basis for removing an official from office” under the South Dakota Constitution.
Minutes after the House Select Committee on Investigation made its official recommendation to not issue articles of impeachment, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem called on the entire House of Representatives to “do the right thing.”
Noem said the question for the committee was if Ravnsborg should continue to be the top law enforcement officer in the state.
“It is clear that he should not be,” Noem said. “My hope is that the House of Representatives as a whole will do the right thing.”
March 10, 2022
The House Select Committee on Investigation met for nearly two hours behind closed doors and afterwards Gosch said the panel will decide in its final meeting on March 28 whether to recommend impeachment.
Every member of the House then plans to vote on the committee’s decision on April 12.
February 24, 2022
Four South Dakotans testified under oath during the eighth meeting of the House Select Committee on Investigation, shining more light on how the criminal prosecution came to its conclusion and how the office of the South Dakota’s Attorney General has functioned since a 2020 deadly crash investigation.
Emily Sovell and Michael Moore spoke about the difficulty of managing such a high-profile case, but both assured lawmakers the investigation was professional and thorough.
January 31, 2022
The House Select Committee on Investigation came out of a two-hour closed-door meeting Jan. 31 and voted to issue subpoenas to Tim Bormann, Ravnsborg’s chief of staff, and state Division of Criminal Investigation director David Natvig, who reports to Ravnsborg.
The committee also voted to subpoena Sovell, the Hyde County deputy state’s attorney who led the prosecution of Ravnsborg, and Moore, the Beadle County state’s attorney who assisted in the prosecution.
January 19, 2022
Two lead investigators with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation told a panel of nine South Dakota lawmakers they believe Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg saw Boever the night Ravnsborg’s car struck and killed the 55-year-old Highmore man in September 2020.
North Dakota BCI Special Agent Joe Arenz, who filed the BCI’s initial report and more than 30 of the 65 reports included in the investigative file, said statements Ravnsborg made to him during interviews made him believe that he hit a person and not a deer.
January 18, 2022
The nine-member panel held more than four hours of public testimony from six people directly involved in the initial investigation in the days after Ravnsborg’s car struck and killed Boever in September 2020.
An independent crash reconstruction business owner John Daily agreed with the findings from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. Daily said if Ravnsborg’s car was in the driving lane, the crash would’ve not happened.
January 17, 2022
The committee held more than two hours of closed door discussions regarding the “review of investigation materials and redactions of public disclosures.”
December 29, 2021
After two days of meetings, the panel voted to issue five subpoenas for people to testify before the panel.
The subpoenas were issued for Craig Price, the Department of Public Safety secretary for South Dakota, and other witnesses who worked at the crash scene and subsequent investigation.
Others are Jeramie Quam, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation; John G. Daily, Jackson Hole (Wyoming) Scientific Investigations; Joe Arenz, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation; and John Berndt, South Dakota Highway Patrol.
December 28, 2021
Nick Nemec, of Holabird, was one of the few people in the audience when the House Select Committee on Investigations began work on Dec. 28. Nemec and others had to leave when the committee quickly went into closed-door session that was scheduled to last all day.
The committee hired Sara Frankenstein, a Rapid City attorney, to serve as its legal counsel in the weeks before this second meeting.
November 10, 2021
In the special committee’s first meeting, Justin Goetz, the LRC’s Chief Research and Legal Analyst, gave a presentation on the committee’s “scope of work, legal authorities informing the work and duties in performing the work.”
In his presentation, Goetz told special committee members the entire House of Representatives acts like a Grand Jury in determining whether criminal charges should be brought.
November 9, 2021
The South Dakota Legislature opened a special session on the possible impeachment of Ravnsborg on November 9, 2021 after meeting about redistricting on Nov. 8, 2021.
The House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling for House Speaker Spencer Gosch to appoint a select committee of nine members to investigate whether Ravnsborg committed impeachable offenses.
The resolution also calls for a special legal counsel chosen by the House speaker. The committee will set its own schedule and will report to the full House whether impeachment should be sought.
The House adopted a second resolution Tuesday that calls for the House to return 14 days after its chief clerk receives the committee’s report.
“We’re delving into unknown territory,” Rep. Fred Deutsch said that day. He wondered what impeachable offenses are but voted for the resolution establishing the committee.
The resolution further says that, should the House approve articles of impeachment, the process would move to the Senate for a trial and the House would return on the day that the trial starts.
August 26, 2021
Judge John Brown ordered Ravnsborg to pay $1,000 for the two misdemeanor counts, more than $3,000 to Hyde County for costs associated with the investigation and ordered Ravnsborg to perform public service on distracted driving education.
Days later, the judge later emailed attorneys letting them know that Ravnsborg would not be required to do community service. The judge says since Ravnsborg didn’t get any suspended jail time, he can’t impose it.
Ravnsborg’s attorney, Rapid City lawyer Tim Rensch, said Ravnsborg would plea “no contest” to the charges of operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device and improper lane driving. The state dropped the careless driving charge.
March 12, 2021
Ravnsborg’s lawyer plead not guilty to three misdemeanor charges on March 12.
Judge Brown: On behalf of Mr. Ravnsborg he has the right to plead not guilty and to have a trial and it’s my understanding that’s your intent is that correct?
Tim Rensch: Yes your honor, at this point we enter a not guilty plea and we would ask this court to set this matter up for a status hearing 60 days, so we can go through the discovery, in some cases there’s a mountain of discovery and in this case there’s a mountain range of discovery; computer drives and everything,
The entire hearing lasted only 5 minutes.
February 25, 2021
A circuit judge has granted Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s request to stop South Dakota authorities, including Governor Kristi Noem from releasing any more reports, interviews or anything involving evidence from the deadly crash in September.
The judge also ordered interview videos be taken down from the Department of Public Safety’s website.
February 18, 2021
Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney Emily Sovell announced Ravnsborg will be charged with operating a vehicle while using a mobile electronic device, illegal lane change and careless driving.
Sovell was joined by Beadle County State’s Attorney Michael Moore, who was part of a team of prosecutors who worked on the case.
Moore said Boever’s family is not happy with the state’s charging decision, but that victims don’t make that decision. He went on to say that Ravnsborg could not be charged with vehicular homicide because such a charge requires the driver of the vehicle to be intoxicated.
October 13, 2020
The 911 call from the night of Ravnsborg’s crash is made public.
September 14, 2020
Ravnsborg released a public statement saying he didn’t have any alcohol in the hours before he was involved in a deadly crash as more details about the fatal crash were announced.
September 13, 2020
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem held a press conference on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 in Sioux Falls to announce Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was involved in a fatal crash on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020.