PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem described Thursday what led to her call for South Dakota’s top state law enforcement official to resign and her subsequent decision to have the state Department of Public Safety release video recordings of investigators interviewing Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg about running over and killing pedestrian Joe Boever.
The governor and her state Public Safety secretary spoke to reporters during her weekly legislative session news conference. Noem and Craig Price made their comments less than 48 hours after two articles of impeachment that seek to remove Ravnsborg from office were announced by Representative Will Mortenson and the Republican and Democratic leaders of the state House. The South Dakota Legislature has never expelled a state elected official.
A spokesman for Ravnsborg said he won’t resign and he has been able to carry out the functions of his office.
Last week the Hyde County deputy state’s attorney met with reporters and said Ravnsborg was charged with three second-class misdemeanors for his actions just before the September 12, 2020, crash on US 14 at the west edge of Highmore. Ravnsborg maintained in the investigation videos that he didn’t know he had hit a person. He returned to the scene the next day and found the body of Boever.
“This is a different process than the criminal investigation. Charges have been filed. This impeachment that the Legislature is undertaking in the House is an administrative process,” Noem told reporters.
“I spent about 10 hours on Monday reviewing the entire case and the videos and what was included during the investigation before the charges were filed. And that’s why on Tuesday you saw me say that I believe the attorney general should resign,” she said. “It was not long after that the House and Representative Mortenson filed those impeachment papers. And they’ll continue to work through that process.”
Price, a former head of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, disagreed with the statement from Ravnsborg’s camp that his job performance hadn’t been affected.
“I don’t know all the duties of the attorney general, but I do reflect back on an article that was written by the Rapid City Journal in early February that reflected upon an agreement back in November where the police chiefs and sheriffs are no longer utilizing the services of the attorney general to review their use of force cases,” Price said.
Prompted by the governor, Price made a statement about his perspective from more than 20 years of law enforcement experience.
“As law enforcement officers, maintaining public trust is critical. We have numerous examples across our country where that trust has been lost, and we’ve all seen that happen in other states. Law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard. We know that and we accept that. We carry a badge that carries significant responsibilities. It requires us to have honor, integrity, character and requires us to tell the truth every single time,” Price said.
He continued, “We don’t expect ourselves to be perfect, but we do expect ourselves to be truthful. Most of us have supervisors that handle situations like this. The chief law enforcement officer of our state answers to our citizens, who are represented through their elected legislators. So if I’m asked, or when I’m asked about whether or not I support this administrative process, I do — they’re the ones that need to look and see if there’s an employment matter that needs to be addressed.”
The videos show Ravnsborg learning that a pair of glasses that Joe Boever was wearing were found in the front passenger seat of the 2011 Fort Taurus that Ravnsborg was driving and Ravnsborg’s reaction when he was told Boever’s face had smashed through the windshield.
Price, with the governor standing at his side, said Thursday the decision to release the videos was because the attorney general is the state’s highest ranking law enforcement official. “And he’s been involved in a pedestrian-vehicle fatality crash. DPS is the custodian of the records and we were directed by Governor Noem to release the information as part of her commitment to be transparent on this case. South Dakota statute allows for that,” Price said.
The department had previously released a recording of the 911 call Ravnsborg made, the accident report that showed his vehicle was on the north shoulder of US 14 where Boever was walking, and toxicology results that showed Ravnsborg wasn’t under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Noem returned to the microphone. “We will be releasing more information more than likely today or tomorrow,” she said. About releasing the interviews, Noem said, “We specifically asked for the (Boever) family’s consent to do that. So we are going to continue to ask the family what to release, what they’re OK with, throughout this process.”
Noem said she hadn’t seen any of the videos or other information prior to Monday. “But that is one of the reasons we moved forward on Tuesday and why I put forward my personal opinion that he should resign.” Asked if she had talked with Ravnsborg, Noem replied: “No, I have not spoken to the attorney general or communicated with him since the accident.”