South Dakota Legislature roundup for Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Capitol News Bureau

IMPEACHMENT RESOLUTION: The three legislators who filed the resolution seeking to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg wouldn’t give a timetable for the proceeding when they spoke to news reporters in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday evening.

Representatives Will Mortenson, Kent Peterson and Jamie Smith are in unusual territory: Impeachment is so rare that it’s doesn’t seem to be covered in the Legislature’s official ‘Redbook‘ of procedural rules.

Smith told KELOLAND News that the resolution will be officially read into the House record on Wednesday because they didn’t have it ready in time Tuesday morning. Reporters learned about the resolution from a news release Mortenson issued as the House began floor action.

When the three legislators met with news reporters at about 6 p.m. after the House wrapped up its work, none of them had seen the two internal interviews the state Department of Public Safety was finishing posting on its website.

South Dakota Public Safety Secretary Craig Price had brought in North Dakota investigators because of Ravnsborg’s stature as a South Dakota elected official.

BROKEN GLASSES: The first interview that North Dakota investigators conducted with Ravnsborg in Pierre lasts about one hour and appears to have been Monday, September 14. It shows Ravnsborg learning that a pair of glasses had been found broken apart in the front-passenger seat area of the 2011 Ford Taurus he was driving when it hit and killed pedestrian Joe Boever just west of Highmore on the night of September 12, 2020.

The second interview several weeks later runs more than two hours. It shows the two North Dakota investigators telling Ravnsborg that the story he told them in the first interview didn’t match what had been found.

They said Boever lost his glasses when his face went through the windshield and his body wound up in the grass about two feet off the north side of U.S. 14.

They said the flashlight Boever carried was still lit after the crash that night and the next day, and that data from Ravnsborg’s cell phones showed Ravnsborg had walked past the body.

They said the cell phone data showed Ravnsborg had been tending to email and reading political articles on one of the two phones until approximately one to two minutes before the crash.

Ravnsborg contended in both interviews that he didn’t find Boever’s body until Sunday morning when he returned the Hyde County sheriff’s personal vehicle that Ravnsborg had been loaned to finish driving back home to Pierre that night.

Ravnsborg repeatedly said in both interviews he didn’t know what he had hit and that he assumed it was a deer because he never expected a person would be walking along the highway at night.

One of the investigators in the second interview told Ravnsborg that some might look at the information they had found and conclude Ravnsborg was a liar.

Ravnsborg at one point after that said, “It just felt like a fireball hit my car.” The investigator later in that second interview told Ravnsborg, “The flashlight on the side of the road — that’s a hard one to stomach.”

NO CONTACT: Another point that stood out from the second interview was Ravnsborg told investigators he hadn’t been in touch with anyone from the Boever family after the crash.

Ravnsborg said he had learned through obituary information that Boever’s father had passed away about six months earlier. Ravnsborg said he didn’t want to contact Boever’s mother because she was now grieving two deaths.

It was also interesting that Ravnsborg said he wasn’t a regular viewer or reader of South Dakota news. He told investigators he didn’t routinely watch South Dakota TV newscasts and sometimes paged through two South Dakota newspapers that his office has delivered each day.

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