PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The panel that decided 6-2 Monday against recommending impeachment of South Dakota’s attorney general found that neither of the misdemeanors committed by Jason Ravnsborg just before a fatal crash were conducted in his office or by his office.
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.
Regarding Ravnsborg’s no-contest plea to using his cellphone to read news articles while driving, the report said “it was clear” that Ravsnborg was no longer on the phone at the time that the car he was driving struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever at the west edge of Highmore.
The estranged widow, Jennifer Boever, was in the room as the committee voted. She slumped forward and cried into her hands while her mother rubbed her back.
Ravnsborg never appeared in court regarding the crash or death, nor did he accept the committee’s invitations to testify. The widow said Monday that Ravnsborg has never communicated with her.
Ravnsborg turns 46 on April 12. Boever was weeks shy of his 56th birthday on October 1 when Ravnsborg’s car hit Boever as he walked along the shoulder of US 14 on the night of September 12, 2020.
The full House of Representatives returns April 12 to decide whether to impeach Ravnsborg.
According to the South Dakota Constitution, an office holder can be impeached by a simple majority of at least 36 representatives.
If he would be impeached, Ravnsborg must then give up his official duties, at least temporarily. The Senate then must wait at least 20 days to begin a trial.
The Senate would need a two-thirds majority of at least 24 to convict. If acquitted, Ravnsborg could return to office. If convicted, he would be permanently removed from office and disqualified “to hold any office of trust or profit under the state.”
Voting against recommending impeachment were six Republican representatives: Mike Stevens of Yankton, Kent Peterson of Salem, Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids, Kevin Jensen of Canton, Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls and Doug Barthel of Sioux Falls. Voting to recommend impeachment were the panel’s two Democrats Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls and Ryan Cwach of Yankton. The committee’s chairman, House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, didn’t vote.
The majority’s report covered 16 pages. The minority filed a one-page report. The committee also filed a five-page addendum about interference throughout the criminal and committee processes, mostly by Governor Kristi Noem and her secretary of public safety, Craig Price, including this statement: “The Select Committee on Impeachment unequivocally condemns Governor Noem’s attempts to influence the committee.”
Both Haugaard and Smith are running against Noem, a Republican, as she seeks re-election to a second term as governor. Noem’s campaign spokesman meanwhile issued a statement Monday night that concluded, “The full House will have the opportunity in the coming days to correct the failures of this committee and I hope that they take their duty seriously and do what is right in this matter.”
Smith told KELOLAND News after the vote Monday night that the panel members had reached a decision during the previous meeting March 10.