PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Senate impeachment trial of South Dakota’s suspended attorney general will be held just before the Republican state convention, where Jason Ravnsborg could possibly still seek nomination by convention delegates to a second term if he’s acquitted.

Senator Lee Schoenbeck said on Wednesday the trial will be Tuesday and Wednesday, June 21-22, at the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre. The Republican convention at the Watertown Event Center is Thursday through Saturday, June 23-25.

“Coincidental,” Schoenbeck, a Watertown Republican and the Senate’s top member, told KELOLAND News about the timing.

The trial schedule has quickly shifted backward. Last Sunday, Schoenbeck said the dates “potentially” could be June 9-10. On Tuesday, after the House impeached Ravnsborg, Schoenbeck opened the possibility of another set of dates in June. On Wednesday, Schoenbeck said it would be June 21-22.

“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,” he said.

Schoenbeck confirmed Wednesday the case for permanently removing Ravnsborg from office will be presented by Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo, who Schoenbeck had mentioned Sunday, and Clay County State’s Attorney Alexis Tracy.

Vargo, who describes himself on his Twitter account as “Afflicted with the magic of the necessary word,” originally was part of the criminal prosecution team against Ravnsborg in the September 12, 2020, death of pedestrian Joe Boever along US 14 at the west edge of Highmore in Hyde County.

Vargo stepped aside before the Hyde County deputy state’s attorney, Emily Sovell, eventually charged Ravnsborg with three second-class misdemeanors. Ravnsborg had his private defense attorney initially plead not-guilty to all three, then reached a plea agreement of no-contest to two and the third was dropped.

The state House of Representatives voted 36-31 on Tuesday to impeach Ravnsborg. He is suspended from official duties as attorney general until the conclusion of the Senate trial. Removing Ravnsborg permanently from state office requires a two-thirds majority of 24 senators to convict.

House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, confirmed Wednesday that he spoke to Ravnsborg on Monday night about resigning rather than having the House go ahead Tuesday with a vote on impeachment.

“My conversation with Ravnsborg was to ask him to step down as it was the right thing to do,” Gosch said.

Last month a House investigative panel that Gosch chaired had voted 6-2 along Republican-Democrat lines to recommend that Ravnsborg not be impeached.

Asked Wednesday about the Senate’s decision to have Vargo and Tracy make the case, Gosch said, “Who they choose for their prosecutor is totally up to them. The House and Senate processes are different and it’s completely inappropriate for me as the presiding officer of the other chamber to weigh in in any way on what they decide to do as a body.”

Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, had repeatedly urged Ravnsborg to step down and called on the House to impeach him when he didn’t. Noem upped the pressure on Ravnsborg when she and Marty Jackley, her Republican opponent for governor in 2018, recently announced they would support each other’s candidacies this year. Jackley was term-limited as attorney general when he ran against then-U.S. Representative Noem for governor. Now Jackley is making a bid to return to his former office.

Noem had constantly pushed for Ravnsborg to resign. She directed the state Department of Public Safety to post on its website various pieces of information about the crash, including two interviews between Ravnsborg and North Dakota investigators. Retired Circuit Judge John Brown ordered that they be taken down.

After the House Select Committee on Investigation began looking into whether Ravnsborg committed impeachable acts in connection to Boever’s death, an Ohio-based firm started contacting South Dakotans by telephone and connected them to committee members. Then a Virginia-based group that said it backed Noem purchased billboards in Sioux Falls that targeted some members of the House panel.

Noem later released the investigative file on the Ravnsborg crash and had state Public Safety Secretary Craig Price send a letter to Speaker Gosch, who was chairing the House panel. The South Dakota Highway Patrol gave legislators a special briefing on the crash last week and allowed questions only from lawmakers.

A letter from Ravnsborg went out late Monday night to House members, after the meeting with Gosch, saying it would be wrong for them to vote to impeach him. In the letter, Ravnsborg accused Noem of violating his constitutional rights and his privacy rights, and he explained why he hadn’t stepped down.

“She took the unfortunate circumstances of a man being killed in a traffic accident to make her political moves. I remained quite (sic) to let the legal process play out; to let the facts stand on their own, and to not color any public sentiment,” Ravnsborg wrote.

He continued, “I could not resign then and cannot resign now because the incident did not impede my ability to perform the functions of Attorney General including on-going investigations of the executive office. Knowing Governor Noem could hand select my replacement, I felt it appropriate to stay in office to maintain the checks and balances within the state.”

Noem responded with a statement from her office that suggested people should read Price’s letter and the file.

“The Attorney General wants to make this about me to distract House members, when in fact the question before them is about whether he should be the state’s top law enforcement officer,” it said.

It continued, “He killed an innocent man, lied about the events of that evening, and abused his office to cover it up. He had months to offer his testimony to the impeachment committee but instead waited until the night before the House meets. The question for the House is whether they believe all of the law enforcement officers who investigated this case are lying? Jason does; I do not. I stand with law enforcement.”

After the 36-31 vote to impeach, Ravnsborg issued a one-sentence statement Tuesday evening through his private spokesman.

It said, “The House of Representatives voted and I respect the process but I look forward to the Senate trial where I believe I will be vindicated.”