SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The group of lawmakers investigating impeachment against South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg will meet for the eighth time this week.
Speaker of the House and chairman of the House Select Committee on Investigation Spencer Gosch (R-Glenman) confirmed the group plans to meet Thursday where testimony is expected from four more people involved in the Ravnsborg investigation.
No official agenda has been posted, but during the group’s last meeting on Jan. 31, lawmakers voted to issue subpoenas to Tim Bormann, David Natvig, Emily Sovell and Michael Moore.
Bormann, Ravnsborg’s chief of staff, and Natvig, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation director, both work closely with Ravnsborg’s office. Bormann was with Ravnsborg on the morning of September 13, 2020, when Ravnsborg found the body of Joe Boever at the crash scene on U.S. Highway 14 at the west edge of Highmore.
Sovell is the Hyde County Deputy State’s Attorney and led the prosecution during Ravnsborg’s criminal proceedings with assistance from Moore, the Beadle County State’s Attorney.
Roughly five months after the September 2020 crash, Sovell announced the charges against Ravnsborg would be three misdemeanor traffic charges. During the announcement, both Sovell and Moore pointed to state laws saying vehicular homicide charges require the driver of the vehicle to be intoxicated and to drive in a negligent manner.
Moore specifically said many states have laws for negligent homicide, but South Dakota does not. Prosecutors also said they couldn’t prove, beyond reasonable doubt, Ravnsborg’s driving was “reckless” and negligent driving wouldn’t be enough for criminal charges of manslaughter.
In August 2021, Ravnsborg’s lawyer entered a no-contest plea for two misdemeanors – driving outside the traffic lane and operating an electronic device while driving.
So far, 11 people have been issued subpoenas for testimony. In January, lawmakers heard from North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents, a Wyoming crash specialist, a South Dakota Highway patrol trooper and members with the Department of Public Safety.
Two North Dakota agents told lawmakers they believed Ravnsborg would have seen Boever when the crash occurred.
Investigation file grows
Four new items have been added to the Ravnsborg investigative file, including a September 2020 press release from Ravnsborg that was discussed in testimony.
Now up to 70 items, the Hyde County State’s Attorney File and a “Ross Garber letter submitted on behalf of Attorney General dated January 27, 2022” were added to the list at the end of January.
Ross Garber is a Washington D.C. lawyer who focuses on government investigations and his website boasts how he’s had four governors facing impeachment proceedings as his clients.
Robocalls have stopped
On Monday, Gosch confirmed robocalls to lawmakers regarding the impeachment investigation had stopped. He said the calls, which were directed at the nine lawmakers on the committee, stopped after about 3-4 days.
During the Jan. 31 meeting, the committee directed its special counsel, attorney Sara Frankenstein, to seek assistance from federal law enforcement and other states’ law enforcement in obtaining information about telephone calls that committee members have received.
Noem supporting Jackley
Republican Governor Kristi Noem has repeatedly called for the resignation of Ravnsborg, a Republican, and urged the House to look at impeachment if he didn’t step down. Noem has also been critical of the House committee’s investigation. She told the Associated Press the committee was “attacking the integrity of our law enforcement officers.”
She has since stopped commenting on the impeachment investigation, but last week she called a memo Ravnsborg drafted for House members on the Appropriations Committee over a dispute on federal child care money “inappropriate.”
“He’s not able to give an opinion that doesn’t have a slant towards opposing me,” Noem told reporters last week.
Former attorney general Marty Jackley has stated he’ll seek the Republican attorney general nomination.
Noem’s campaign also released a joint statement last week saying Noem and Jackley were supporting each other in the 2022 election. The two previously faced off for the Republican nomination in 2018.
KELOLAND News coverage of what’s next
KELOLAND News will have more coverage of Thursday’s House Select Committee on Investigation online and on-air.
The South Dakota Constitution says grounds for impeachment are “drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office.”
A simple majority of 36 representatives in the House would be necessary to impeach Ravnsborg, at which time the state Constitution states there’d be “Suspension of duties between impeachment and acquittal.” There’s then, at least, a 20-day delay until a Senate trial could be held. Senators could vote to convict, which would permanently remove Ravnsborg from office.
Ravnsborg’s first term as attorney general would end in January 2023, regardless of who the Republican Party nominates at a state convention and who voters choose in the November election.